Sri Lankan health workers hold partial strike over allowance

Colombo, Oct 8 (EFE): Around 100,000 Sri Lankan health employees held a five-hour strike across the island on Friday opposing the government’s move to withdraw a special Covid allowance of 7500 rupees ($38) that was being given to them for the last three months.

Government health workers, except doctors and those deployed in Covid-19 facilities and other emergency duties, stood outside hospitals in protest between 7 am and noon, with a host of demands related to their working conditions

“Health workers kept working even when the risks were very high. That is why the government gave the allowance. Now even without consulting us they have discontinued it,” the convener of the Health Services Trade Union Alliance, Ravi Kumudesh, told EFE.

“The government has to give more facilities to these workers because they are the most vulnerable as frontline workers,” he added.

The protesting professionals held placards with slogans such as “called a hero but paid zero”, “increase facilities” and “solve problems in the health sector”.

AY Suneetha, a 37-year-old health worker employed with the Teaching Hospital in Ratnapura, told EFE that most workers had been using the allowance to buy extra sanitizers, masks and other necessary equipment.

“This is a deadly virus. We go to work worried for our safety and we come back worrying about out family members. We live in constant fear that we could have contracted the virus at work and would expose a loved one to it,” she said.

This is the second partial strike held by medical workers across the country after a similar five-hour shut down on Sep. 27 on a call by 44 health sector unions.

Their main demands include the continuation of the allowance, removal of limits on overtime payment, more facilities for the staff fighting Covid-19 and appointment of more personnel on vacant posts in the health sector.

On Oct. 1, the Sri Lankan government began to gradually lift a six-week long curfew to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

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