Defiant workers hold May Day rallies

COLOMBO, MAY 02,
Thousands of workers on Tuesday defied an order of the Sri Lankan government postponing May Day events, by rallying in Colombo’s Fort area to mark the International Workers’ Day.
Earlier, the Cabinet decided to defer workers’ day events to May 7, citing an overlap with the Buddhist festival of Vesak or Buddha Poornima, that fell on April 29 and 30. The move, which followed a request from the influential Buddhist clergy, drew severe criticism from independent trade unions. “We did not want to cow down to any pressure from the government. We did not want to change the International Workers’ Day. Workers have come in huge numbers today,” said Linus Jayatilleke, president of the United Federation of Labour. Workers from free trade zones, private sector enterprises and the banking sector, many of whom took the day off to participate in the rally, marched with banners reiterating their right to eight-hour work days and fair wages. Police barricaded the road leading to the Presidential Secretariat, but workers peacefully culminated ahead of the stretch, as their leaders criticised the government for undermining workers’ rights.

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