Thousands of public sector workers across Sri Lanka staged a strike on March 15 to protest the IMF bailout plan, demanding that the government roll back high taxes imposed as a precondition to unlock $2.9bn IMF loan.
The nationwide action, involving 40 trade unions, caused schools to cancel term tests and outpatient departments at hospitals to close.
“The strike came despite a ban imposed by Wickremesinghe last month, and warnings that violators could lose their jobs. Trade union spokesman Haritha Aluthge said talks with the authorities overnight ended inconclusively, forcing them to go ahead with Wednesday’s work stoppage.”
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said 20 trains operated to support office workers traveling to Colombo, but according to unions, it accounted for less than five percent of daily services.
While the president’s office referenced state-run buses in operations, very few were seen on the roads while attendance at schools, offices and factories was significantly lower.
“Anyone who violates the essential services order will face the full force of the law,” cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardana warned prior to the strike.
Unions say that the strike will last in accordance with the government’s response to their demand to reverse new taxes, lower record high interest rates and reduce power tariffs.