Trade unions raised strong objections to the decision taken by the Government to postpone May Day to 7 May on Tuesday (17 April).
In a joint statement, several trade unions said that in Sri Lanka, it is a workers’ right to celebrate international workers’ day on 1 May.
May Day was declared a holiday in Sri Lanka in 1956 for the public, bank and mercantile sectors.
The trade unions said that, after 62 years, this Government has declared May Day a working day by issuing a gazette notification that has created confusion even among the top bureaucracy.
“The Government has, on a unilateral decision, declared 7 May as the alternate day for May Day celebrations. The Government did not even consider it worth discussing the issue of postponing May Day with the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) before it decided on the postponement. The Government said the May Day was postponed as it would disturb Buddhist religious activities widely practised during the “Vesak week”. Trade unions, therefore, decided to hold their May Day rallies on the international workers’ day on 1 May in a manner that would not disturb religious activities as claimed by the Government,” the joint statement said.
The trade unions said that the UNP that now controls the Colombo Municipal Council has refused permission for May Day rallies to be held in public parks on 1 May.
“The Government has thus achieved an indirect ban on all May Day celebrations in Colombo. It is our experience now that this Government that gives into wheeler-dealer interests is openly and seriously into curbing worker and democratic rights. All these, including the postponement of the May Day and refusing permission to hold May Day rallies in public parks, fall in line with the appointment of a businessman who was brought into parliament on the UNP national list, being appointed as Acting Minister of Labour and Labour Relations. We therefore forewarn these developments would leave all promises and guarantees given by this Government to the EU in regaining GSP “Plus” as benefits and advantages to the businessmen and not to the people and the workers of Sri Lanka,” the trade unions said.
The trade unions said they will proceed to hold their joint May Day rally as usual on 1 May, whatever hurdles there could be.
The Ceylon Bank Employees Union, the Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers Union, the Free-Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union, Union of Postal and Telecommunication Officers, Ceylon Estate Staff Union, United Federation of Labour, Ceylon Teachers Union, Insurance Employees Union, Commercial & Industrial Workers Union, Union of Telecommunication, Government United Federation of Labour, and Women Workers Solidarity Union signed the joint statement. (Colombo Gazette)