Read this article in:
9 December, 2022Sri Lanka is experiencing the worst economic and political crisis in its history. According to the World Bank, the country’s economic growth is expected to contract by nine per cent in 2022 and a further four per cent in 2023.
Food inflation has been at an all-time high and there has been an 80 per cent increase in the prices of imported goods. This, along with the devaluation of the Sri Lankan currency, has been devastating for the working people.
Swasthika Arulingam, president of the Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU), says:
“While food prices have skyrocketed, wages have seen a sharp decline. Workers are unable to afford even two meals a day. Malnutrition has become a serious cause of concern in the country. There are reports of children fainting in schools due to insufficient food intake.”
Ahilan Kadirgamar, a senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna, said that the economic crisis has been brewing for a long time. The Sri Lankan government’s economic policies since the country opened up its markets are primarily responsible for the current situation. Even during these a difficult times, the government has not shown any intention to change its policies, as reflected in the budget for the upcoming year. There is no attempt to address the food crisis or provide any relief to the country’s working people.
Earlier this year, peaceful protests over the food and fuel crises were suppressed by the government using military force. Democratic and trade union rights are under severe attack in Sri Lanka.
Akira Takakura, IndustriALL vice president, said:
“Workers’ rights are under threat in Sri Lanka. Employers are taking advantage of the economic crisis to undermine trade union rights. We stand in solidarity with our affiliates in Sri Lanka who are at the forefront of the struggle to protect workers’ rights.”
IndustriALL affiliates said that the government has refused to engage with unions on labour-related issues. Despite the unions’ repeated requests to the government to convene the meeting of the National Labour Advisory Council, it has yet to happen.
Anton Marcus, general secretary of IndustriALL affiliate Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union, said:
“Workers and unions are putting up a strong fight. The country needs a union-led social movement bringing together all working people. We have to stand united if we want to safeguard our democratic and trade union rights.”
Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary, said:
“Workers have seen many hardships since the start of the crisis. IndustriALL firmly stands with unions and workers in Sri Lanka in these difficult times. We call on the Sri Lankan government to immediately look into the unions’ demands.”
Top photo: Demonstration against the cost of living crisis earlier this year.