Sri Lanka faces widespread work stoppages in spite of a government order banning industrial action
The Colombo Fort railway station was empty due to the railway strike on March 15, 2023, in Colombo, Sri Lanka © Getty Images / Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Several key industries ground to a halt in Sri Lanka on Wednesday as more than 40 trade unions protest a sharp rise in taxes, while the island nation grapples with an economic crisis.
The disruptions, which are impacting hospitals, transport, schools and other sectors, come despite a ban on strikes introduced by President Ranil Wickremesinghe last month, as well as warnings that those who disobey the government directive could lose their jobs.
“Anyone who violates the essential services order will face the full force of the law,” warned cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardana ahead of the work stoppages.
The industrial action was confirmed on Wednesday by trade union spokesman Haritha Aluthge following unsuccessful talks with authorities overnight, aimed at addressing a hike in income tax to 36%, announced in January. Power tariffs have also risen by two-thirds. The duration of the strikes, unions say, will depend on the government’s response to tax protests, as well as surging electricity costs.