Blackouts in Sri Lanka as power engineers work-to-rule

June 20, 2008 (LBO) – Parts of Sri Lanka blacked out Friday night as engineers at Sri Lanka’s power utility worked-to-rule, demanding the ouster of the state-run organization’s chairman, even as negotiations began with senior government officials. The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) had discussions with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Basil and senior minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and with power minister John Seneviratne later in the day, a union official said.

Power engineers are demanding the ouster of Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) chairman Udayasiri Kariyawasam, an accountant who has had difficult relations with engineers. He was appointed to the post by president Rajapaksa.

Engineers in all state enterprises are also demanding tax slashed cars, after central government workers gave themselves tax slashed cars, but did not extend the perk to enterprises.

Engineers at other utilities including the Water Supply Board have threatened trade union action over the issue.

Ordinary Sri Lankans on the street have to pay high taxes to buy a car.

The powerful engineers union gave notice of a work-to-rule campaign earlier on Tuesday and warned of full blown trade union action within a week if n