Sri Lankan workers go on indefinite strike against proposed oil deal with India
Workers of Sri Lanka's state-run petroleum company went on an indefinite strike from Monday against a proposed deal with India to jointly operate a strategic oil storage facility at Trincomalee port, crippling fuel distribution and resulting in long queues at filling stations across the island nation.
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Trade Union Collective workers had on Sunday threatened to cripple entire transportation sector in the country as a result of the strike. Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody was hopeful of a solution as he scheduled a round of talks with the CPC trade unions later on Monday.
"Disruption in fuel distribution has been reported due to the strike and long lines of motorists have been observed at filling stations," Managing Director of CPC Nadun Fernando said. "There will be no shortage of fuel during the strike as enough fuel has been distributed throughout the country," he said."A discussion is to be held between the subject Ministry and the trade union leaders and most likely the entire issue could be settled within the day," Fernando said. Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) said its operations were continuing despite the strike launched by CPC.
Lanka and India are expected to sign an agreement to jointly operate an oil storage facility at the strategic eastern port town of Trincomalee. The workers have three demands which include getting the government to stop granting outright ownership of some 14 World War II-era oil storage tanks in the eastern port district of Trincomalee. The Petroleum Joint Union Alliance had said it opposes the proposal to transfer operations rights to oil tanks to India since the agreement would benefit the Lanka IOC, Indian Oil's subsidiary, allowing it to expand further and the CPC, which is already in debt, will incur further financial losses.
They had also asked the government to shelve plans to build a new oil refinery with Chinese assistance in the southern port of Hambantota and to immediately begin repairing the existing refinery near Colombo. The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) backed the trade union's action saying that they oppose the agreement to be signed between Sri Lanka