LAKBIMANEWS COLUMN 13 APRIL

This Sinhala Hindu New Year is a day without celebrations for the millions of working masses of all communities. Not only the prices have gone up and the inflation is near 30 % but also the wages and allowances have not gone up appreciably for the last few years. In addition in many work places there were no AVURUDU bonuses or even advance payments. Some employers have not given the normal annual increment for this year. In the government sector the so-called increment tied to the increase in living index has become a fixed sum of pennies. Those who were fooled by the promise of a large loan payment for house constructions and urgencies are in debt to money lenders and land brokers. Some have sold the land for few shillings, on which they have foolishly invested. They hang around offices of notaries and curse the government in filth. Companies have taken law into their hand and discontinue worker as they wish with minimum compensation. Neither the Labour tribunals nor the higher courts are prepared to burden the employer. Signals have come from the top to protect the companies and to put the burden on the working masses. Recently a representative of employees displaced from a city chartered bank came to our office and described the pathetic plight of over 100 women and men who lost the job for a compensation of few thousand rupees legitimized by the law. They have looked into all possible legal action that could be taken to prevent this disaster but without avail. All struggles of employees to implement the salary increments agreed in collective agreements have not got the backing of the Labour department and increasingly the latter plays the role of an employers department. Thus the administration and judiciary is moving away from defending social welfare and social security, parallel to the decay of populist politics. This degeneration of the state is defended by the opportunistic trade unionist tied to the government. The indifference and corruption of old left trade union leaders have created an atmosphere of uncertainty among the rank and file workers.

There are two arguments put forward by the political leaders who are behind this misery created for the working masses. Firstly, the patriotic war has to go on until the last Tiger is eliminated. This is claimed to be a successful project and the workers must sacrifice for the greater benefit to the nation. Secondly, vast developments are under taken inspite of the war. These development projects need essential funds at the correct moment. Hence government is compelled to borrow at a cost. Mostly cost is very small but sometimes commercial borrowings had to be undertaken. Apparently these are wisely done. Workers should have faith in Mahinda chinthanaya and help to pay back the debts. These arguments have worked not only for the eager followers of the government but also for the self acclaimed independent trade union leaders. But these opportunists have only a short time left. Workers are beginning to question the validity of the above arguments. Can the war eliminate all Tigers? Even if it does will the Tamils abandon their wish for freedom and autonomy. Isn’t the political solution the only way out? The workers can see clearly that the development precipitated by the global capitalist agenda is only for the elite. The working masses will be living in illusions while their actual existence degenerates into monotonous soap opera. Having realized this they have started moving out. True, nothing much happened before the Alut avurudda. But I am sure that things will be different very soon .Linus jayathilaka the president of the United Federation of Labour said recently that a united struggle including all sectors will break out and the trend is already in that direction.

The best indicator for the coming crisis in the workers corner is the clash within the JVP. The JVP is a petty bourgeoisie party based among the Sinhala masses but it is basically a plebeian party. Hence it can get affected by the hammerings in the work places. It simply gets dragged when workers start moving. Somawansa wants to cut the connections to the upper class chauvinist such as Gunasekara and Amarasekara in order to get better access to the workers struggle. Not that he will drop Sinhala chauvinism to be a new Karl Marx! On the contrary he wants to use the coming workers struggles to propel the JVP led chauvinist uprising. As it is, the role played by Weerawansa so far, as the blue eyed boy of the Mahinda regime, is definitely an obstacle.



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