Govt To Hear Out CEB Unions Before Embarking On Urgently Needed Reforms

Shakila Ifham

March 12, 2023


The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) and other CEB trade unions would be given the opportunity to spell out their requirements and suggestions once the Reform Office is set up shortly, a senior engineer said.

Responding to queries, CEBEU Vice President Dhanushka Parakramasinghe said that the Restructuring of the CEB by the `Reform Office’ would take place once the bill is passed in parliament and unions would be part and parcel of it.

He said that the unions had a cordial meeting on Sunday evening with Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera.

The Minister while agreeing to four of the five demands of the CEBEU has stated that when it comes to tax reforms, it is beyond his control, however, he had requested the unions to continue power supply today –March 14- without any interruptions due to the planned protest campaign.

CEB unions are against the increase in personal income tax imposed by the government recently.

The government has raised taxes up to a maximum of 36 percent after 100,000 rupee monthly tax free income. Majority of the island nation’s state sector workers get a salary below the monthly tax free allowance.

President Rani Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the finance minister, has also raised corporate taxes to 30 percent from 24 from this year, after almost doubling the value added tax (VAT) last year.

The higher taxes come as the inflation is hovering around 57 percent while borrowing cost is running around 30 percent.

In addition, the collective agreement with the CEB trade unions, electricity tariffs, the government’s tax policy, and other related matters were taken up for discussion during the meeting.

The progress of the CEB restructuring programme was reviewed last Friday.

As a result of the meeting with the development lenders the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, USAID and JICA have communicated on the assistance they can offer for the restructuring program and accordingly their assistance will be obtained, the Minister said.

Assistance will be obtained for financial audits, human resource audits, assets audits and legal expertise under the assistance offered by donor banks /  agencies.

Roadmap and timeline will be submitted to the Cabinet on the process, Minister Wijesekera said, adding that the reforms that can be implemented before the final Act, will be initiated next week.

As a first step of such reforms, existing collective agreements will not be renewed and instead terminated and new policy decisions related to management of CEB accounts to reduce cost will be initiated, the Minister said.