With backlog of 400,000 letters and parcels, postal unions plan go-slow

Sri Lanka postal workers

With postal workers planning to begin an island-wide go-slow campaign from Monday over a decision to scrap overtime payments, the Government has invited postal trade unions for talks to resolve the issue that could affect the upcoming parliamentary election.

Postal unions are planning to launch trade union action over the Postal Department’s move to close  post and sub post offices on Saturdays and to scrap resulting OT payments to staff.

Joint Postal Trade Union Front Convenor Chinthaka Bandara told the Sunday Times the Postal Department had more than 1000 vacancies. This meant that employees had to do extra work. In this situation, he insisted that the decision to close post offices and sub post offices on Saturdays was a clear attempt to deprive workers of their hard-earned OT payments.

Accordingly, postal workers would only attend to their normal duties from Monday and would not do any overtime work.

The union leader also warned that if they were forced to continue their action, it would also have an impact on the distribution of election related material via post.

Postmaster General Ranjith Ariyaratne accused the unions of “acting like Shylock” and demanding their pound of flesh. “They are not prepared to deviate from their course. This is unfortunate given how much we have suffered on account of COVID-19.”

He said it was no longer economically feasible to keep post offices and sub post offices open on Saturdays as the department earned a revenue of only about Rs 3 million by keeping them open on Saturdays, whereas it lost millions more by having to pay OT to staff who worked on Saturdays.

Mr Ariyaratne said he was hopeful the issue could be resolved by next week, with unions due to meet subject minister Bandula Gunawardena for talks on Tuesday. “The Postal Department did not even have a proper budget until this week. However, with money being allocated to us now, I believe these issues can be resolved,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Postal Department is being choked with a deluge of more than 400,000 letters and parcels that stockpiled during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The PMG said it would take weeks, if not months, to clear the backlog.

(Source: The Sunday Times – By Chrishanthi Christopher)