Employee group opposes alleged privatisation of profitable Litro Gas

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Jun 12, 2019 (LBO) – The Litro Surakime Jathika Ekamuthuwa (LSJE) or Litro Surakeeme National Unity, a newly formed employee union, has intensified its agitation against the Finance Minister and other connected parties’ move to privatise Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. by filing a case in the Court of Appeal.

The case was filed following a move to totally or partially privatise the profit-making State-owned enterprise, citing Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Secretary to Ministry of Finance/Secretary to the Treasury Dr. R H S Samaratunga, Ministry of Finance Senior Advisor Mano Tittawella, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, Laugfs Gas Terminal Ltd., and Laugfs Gas PLC as respondents.

LSJE comprises of 80% of employees of Litro Gas Lanka, and was formed a few months ago with the sole purpose of protecting the well-being of the company in the backdrop of some drastic moves by the Ministry of Finance.

Litro Surakime Jathika Ekamuthuwa (LSJE) President A K Nalin Samantha says this is the second attempt to privatise Litro Gas Lanka Ltd. “Previously they privatised it though an international entity, and later it had to be taken over by the State at a significant cost. We are opposed to privatisation, and will continue to agitate against this move by the Government.” 

“This is a company that belongs to the people of this country, and what is unfortunate is that a successful SOE which commands a market share of over 75%, and which is the only SOE which has provided the Treasury around 10 billion rupees in pidends during the last two financial years, is now being privatised due to vested interests of some parties.”

One of the objectives of the litigation is block any form of whole or partial privatisation; directly or indirectly by the only competitor in the industry, to thwart the efforts of becoming a supplier to Litro Gas and creating an unhealthy market condition detrimental to the consumers and the country, while also vehemently opposing the removal of the current Board of Directors, who opposed the moves by the Finance Minister, Ministry and their allied parties.

The Finance Minister sought removal of the Board of Directors and attempted to appoint a fresh Board a few times over the last few months. The LSJE state that is a result of a sinister move by the Ministry to force a partial purchase of ownership of the bunkering facility, commissioned by Laugfs Gas PLC recently. The proposal outlines that the part of the cost and ownership of the bunkering facility could be shared by Laugfs Gas Lanka, paving the way for not only a partial or total privatisation of Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., but also a highly unhealthy monopoly of the LPG sector which will be highly detrimental to the end-consumer. LSJE also states that the reason for lack of support from the Ministry in terms of consent and permission for Litro Gas’ future expansion plans such as terminal expansion and new filling plant requirement are due to their intentions of privatisation.

Significantly, apart from LSJE, multiple other related parties are also seeking litigation in this matter. Apart from the 80% of 230 employees belonging to LSJE, all distributors, 100 dealers representing all 8,500-plus dealerships, and all manpower employees who had been in the service at Litro Gas from a period of 2–20 years are seeking litigation as different parties of petitioners for the same cause.

Litro Gas Lanka is the island’s largest importer and supplier of LP Gas, and has won numerous awards and accolades for its performance excellence, dedication to sustainability and successful implementation of standardisation in 2018. The line-up of awards signifies the success of the Company’s core intent to ensure long-term success and viability through profitability, performance excellence and standardisation.