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A Railway Dept. devoid of strikes is my vision for SLR – Minister

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Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana on Tuesday said that arrangements have been taken to continue the services of the Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) devoid of strikes and trade union actions through discussions and consensus.

A special discussion was held at the Media Ministry with the representatives of trade unions affiliated to the Railway Department, under the patronage of Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana.

Many opinions were presented about the future work related to the department and the proposals of the trade unions.

“After taking over this ministerial position as the Minister of Transport and Highways, through discussion and general agreement with the administration and trade unions, a programme was implemented to maintain services, without causing inconvenience to the commuters. There is a great belief among commuters who use railway services for their work and other travel, especially with many problems on a daily basis, that the train will provide travel facilities on time.”

“However, due to occasional strikes and service breakdowns, a large public opinion emerged within society that the railway service should be privatized. Even though the loss of the department has been reduced to a certain extent, there is still a loss of billions. The Government does not have the ability to provide money to cover the loss. I have pointed out that it is difficult to maintain further, this service, as a department while following alternative measure. A proposal has been submitted to the Cabinet to make it an authority to avoid certain limitations and obstacles in working as a department and a special committee has been appointed to study it and make necessary recommendations.”

“I believe that in a very short period of time we will be able to complete those activities and reach a final decision. As a department, trade unions and staff have been given the opportunity to submit solutions and proposals to the existing problems. Also, in the future, they will be given an opportunity to express their opinions before corporate committees and supervisory committees that deal with these matters. Likewise, measures are being taken in a manner that does not prejudice the existing employees or their privileges during the restructuring of the organization.”

“Considering that there is no possibility to import engines, carriages and spare parts required for the Railway Department in the current economic situation, efforts are being made to include the necessary proposals in the upcoming Budget to enable the department to make the necessary purchases at competitive prices from manufacturers engaged in those industries locally, and to ensure that the departments including the Ratmalana Railway Workshop will contribute effectively.”

“A plan is currently being implemented to manage the land, buildings and other assets owned by the institution in a proper manner and to turn such underutilized assets into revenue generating avenues for the institution. In view of the fraud, corruption and irregularities reported from various sectors, measures are being taken to temporarily stop all leases by the commercial sector from today,” the Minister said.

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