Sri Lanka workers to go on strike
Workers in Sri Lanka are going on strike threatning to paralyse the country in case their demand is not met. Government doesn't have financial wherewithal to meet the workers demand.
Union officials in Sri Lanka say state services will be crippled with the majority of its more than a million public sector workers going on strike.
The price of consumer goods has risen by almost 30% in the last year, and employees are demanding a pay increase.
The government says that to meet the workers' demands it will have to cut expenditure on the war it is waging against the Tamil Tiger rebels.
One minister said the strike was politically motivated.
Union officials are demanding a pay increase of just under $50 a month.
"The trade unions will definitely go ahead with the planned strike, despite suppressing acts by the government," Reuters news agency said quoting KD Lalkantha, president of the All Ceylon Trade Union Federation and an opposition MP.
"[The] cost of living is rising rapidly and the state sector employees are unable to live with their present salaries. But the government has failed to grant a better salary increase," he said.
Cabinet minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the unions' demands could not be met without cutting spending on the war with the Tamil Tigers which, the government says, it is winning.
"We don't have provisions in the 2008 budget for such an increase. We would need an extra 50-60 billion rupees ($465-$555 million) for the rest of the year," Reuters quoted Mr Rambukwella as saying.
"What you can cut is the defence expenditure. But we will not cut defence expenditure at this decisive moment," he said.
Mr Rambukwella said the strike, which has been organised by unions backed by opposition parties, was politically motivated and could even help the separatist rebels.
The government has said stern action will be taken to prevent illegal demonstrations or violence during the stoppage.
The BBC's Roland Buerk in Colombo says consumer prices in Colombo have risen by nearly 30% from a year ago, the highest rate of inflation in south and southeast Asia.