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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

CEB’s powerful engineers’ union declares war

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) has passed a resolution demanding the immediate implementation of the salary revision already approved by its Board.  This decision was taken at the Special General Meeting of CEBEU held at Rajagiriya on Wednesday. All engineers belonging to CEBEU had taken leave from work to attend this meeting as a mark of protest.

‘The Island’ learns that the engineers had resolved to take trade union action if the above and several of their other issues are not resolved promptly. Among the other issues are the forced retirement of some senior engineers and long standing issue of a senior engineer who had been interdicted on the instructions of the Minister.

It is understood that these issues also include the case of a senior engineer attached to the Norochcholai coal power plant, who has been earmarked for forced retirement by the CEB Board, claiming that he was responsible for all the problems at the plant.

However, engineers have been saying repeatedly that the design and specifications of the plant had been agreed between the Ministry and the Chinese contractor with little input from CEB engineers. Engineers have protested on many occasions claiming that the Chinese contractor was delivering a substandard plant.

The plant was originally scheduled to be commissioned in January 2012. However, after the present Minister took over, its opening date was advanced by eight months and the plant was declared open by the President in a colourful and expensive ceremony that included a King Vijaya look-alike landing on the Puttalam shore, after travelling in a flotilla of ships and handing over a ‘sannas’ to the President.

However, ever since this plant was commissioned almost a year back, it had been plagued by frequent breakdowns.

Engineers claim that the massive electricity price increase imposed by the Government from Wednesday which included a 40per cent fuel surcharge was a direct result of the highly unreliable operation of the coal plant.

They question as to why the contracts for the second and third stages of the plant, each 300 MW, were signed by the Ministry of Power and Energy, even before the First stage was opened.

With the recurrent problems of the coal power plant, the Minister has been making every effort to distance himself from the plant, disclaiming any responsibility for awarding the contracts to the Chinese company concerned, Engineers charge.

He has ordered all top engineers involved in the First stage be transferred out and CEB has appointed a senior engineer from its Generation Unit to head the Stage Two Project of the plant.

Engineers believe that unless the quality of equipment and workmanship is improved drastically, this second stage too will have all the problems of the First stage, bringing more problems to CEB and the country.

According CEB sources, another issue taken up by CEBEU at the Special General Meeting was the interdiction of its member Dr. Susantha Perera by the Board in May 2011.

They said it was in violation of CEB’s Disciplinary Procedure approved by the Board and the Board had not even issued him a show-cause letter.

According to prevailing rules, an interdicted employee should be issued with a charge sheet within one month and a disciplinary inquiry should be completed within three months. The rules also state that if a disciplinary inquiry is not completed within three months, an interdicted employee should be reinstated and the inquiry continued.

These rules also entitle an interdicted employee to be paid at least half his salary after six months of interdiction.

Sources said that nearly nine months after his interdiction without pay by the CEB Board, he was yet to be issued with a charge sheet by CEB. Despite directions given by the Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy, CEB refused even to pay his salary since his interdiction in May last year.

It is understood that CEBEU would resort to trade union action if the CEB Board failed to resolve those issues immediately.

When CEBEU launched similar trade union action last May, Minster Ranawaka had to give into its demands and remove the then Chairman Vidya Amarapala and two of his other appointees to CEB Board. Amarapala’s successor Prof. Abeywickrama is presently on medical leave having undergone heart surgery and Ranawaka’s batch mate from University of Moratuwa Anura Vijayapala is acting as Chairman of CEB. Minister Ranawaka too is out of the country at present
By Ifham Nizam


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