The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation General Employees Union have threatened to stage another nationwide strike next week over the government’s failure to consult them prior to finalizing the conditions laid down in a Memorandum of Understanding over the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm.
Speaking to the Nation, President of the CPC General Employees Union Asoka Ranwala stated that during a discussion with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody, they were assured that the MoU would be restricted to a political commitment.
“We called off our initial strike based on the assurance that we would be consulted prior to finalizing a legal agreement, however the timeframe stipulated in these documents ends by the 23rd of this month,” he said. “There isn’t sufficient time for the government to initiate a discussion and we know that it will proceed as agreed. We wish to halt this process and make our voices heard as we do not want the Lankan Indian Oil Corporation (Lanka IOC) to have a monopoly.”
Ranwala added that it would be impossible for the government to consult the union and obtain the necessary checks before finalizing the legal agreement within this short period.
“We are in discussion with other unions from the energy sector, ports authority, and transport to stage this strike after the 23rd of this month. It is not possible for the government to make good on its promise since time is running out,” he added.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe however had assured Parliament on May 3, that the legal agreements had not been finalized and that all parties concerned would be consulted prior to a decision. While speaking in Parliament, he also noted that the political MoU includes a proposal to build a solar power plant in Sampur, appointing a joint committee to develop the Trincomalee harbour, encouraging Indian investors to invest in special economic zones in Sri Lanka, development of Northern road network and Lankan Railway line, and construction of a new container terminal at the Colombo port also with Japan and CPC.
According to the MoU which has been sanctioned by cabinet, the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm land is to be leased in a joint venture with India to develop it. “Our plan is to make use of this storage facility to enable the CPC to enter the Indian market. There is no legal agreement yet. All stakeholders including the trade unions would be consulted before finalizing the agreement,” he told the house.
Apart from the Trincomalee Oil Tank, other points of contention the unions have mentioned include the modernization of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery, the China Bay Oil Tanks and if it would be taken back from Lanka IOC.
The government, Lanka IOC Pvt. Ltd. and CPC signed a tripartite agreement with regard to the China Bay Installation (Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm) in February 2003.
As per the lease agreement, the oil tank farm with 99 tanks was to be handed over to LIOC for use for a period of 35 years. Accordingly, they started using 14 tanks in the lower farm area. The remaining 84 tanks in the upper tank area remain disused.