Sri Lanka: 15,000 health workers on mass picket in Colombo

The health workers’ strike in Sri Lanka is now (21 September) in its 6th day. The workers are agitating on the main demand of rectifying an unfair wage anomaly. It came about as a result of the increase the doctors got from their successful strike a few months ago. Their increase put all other workers in the health sector into a serious wage anomaly. Our wages have been left far behind.

This has brought 53 different trade union organisations in the health sector together into a front. The Janaraja Joint Health Workers Union affiliated to the United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) is playing a key role in this strike. For the first time, over 90% of health workers other than the doctors have come out on strike. This is a massive success.

Two days ago the government decided to lay off all casual employees working

in the health sector who have come out on strike. The military was deployed in hospitals to head off the strike and try to get the hospitals functioning. Today, the government has decided to consider all employees on strike as having vacated their posts.

There has also been a call by the government for those who have retired from service to report for work with a special allowance attached to their monthly pension. This was answered by the Joint Front of Health Trade Unions with a massive picket in the heart of the Colombo city at Lipton Square. More than 15,000 workers were there with support from other trade unions who came out in large numbers.

An anti-health strike feeling among the people developed during the doctors’ strike. Now there is gross distortion of our situation in the media. It is heavily influenced by the government which is trying to fan the flame of anti-strike feelings among the ordinary people. They are the ones who are almost totally dependent on the government health services.

We would call upon you to get health and other trade unions in your countries to e-mail Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Mr.P.Dayaratne. Please call upon him to immediately settle the strike in favour of the health workers by giving us our just demand and abolishing our wage disparity.

The email addresses to send your messages to are:, and copies to us, care of United Socialist Party at:

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September 2003