Lankan President Rajapaksa bans strikes by essential service workers

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has issued a special gazette banning worker strikes related to essential services following threats by unions to launch a protest against an energy deal with a US company.

According to the gazette, all services related to the supply and distribution of all fuels, including petroleum products and liquefied gas, the transportation of goods by the Department of Railways of Sri Lanka and all services of public transport provided by the Sri Lanka Transport Board for passenger transport, government administration, insurance services, operation of catering agencies and postal services have been declared essential services.

The order follows threats from utility unions warning of a strike to protest a power sector deal reached with a US agency.

The government has also faced internal dissent from representatives of a small party in the ruling alliance.

Also read: Sri Lanka turns to IFFCO’s nano-urea to tackle its agricultural disaster

Ruling party members from allied parties had requested a meeting with Rajapaksa to discuss issues regarding the proposed deal with US company New Fortress Energy Inc. on the Yugadanavi power station just outside the capital Colombo.

At the end of September, the American company New Fortress Energy announced that it had reached an agreement to supply the state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) with 1.2 million gallons of liquefied natural gas per day via a cycle power plant. combined 310 MW and another 700 MW of power plants to be built in Kerawalapitiya.

Under the agreement, the new fortress will initially supply the equivalent of approximately 1.2 million gallons of LNG per day to the government.

Oil unions have alleged the country stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with the US firm, which could be worth up to $6 billion.

At least two cabinet ministers have threatened to quit their jobs in their bid to stop the deal. They have sworn to stop two more agreements that must be signed.

They claimed the deal would create a monopoly in the hands of foreign ownership and thus endanger the island’s national security.

Michelle J. Kelley