SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage who earlier was reported to have deprived the poor of basic medical facilities as the Chairman of Asiri Surgical Hospital PLC, has once again been exposed as being the chief architect in terminating over 400 employees from the national carrier, besides sending scores of other employees on compulsory leave without pay.
Ashok Pathirage the national carrier Chairman was earlier exposed in an article published by Colombo Telegraph on the 30th of July 2017 titled “Asiri Hospital Wants New BOI Board To Help Facilitate Tax Evasion Whilst Continuing To Deny Free Services To The Poor.”
In that instance the Softlogic Chairman Pathirage besides seeking ways to evade taxation, failed to also honour his contract with the BOI, by denying the poor of much needed medical services such as offering them free OPD services and a free ward consisting of a minimum of ten beds.
However in his unprecedented new move now as the Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Pathirage has been unveiled as being the sole perpetrator who orchestrated the ouster of 400 staff, who besides also went on to blatantly disregard directives made by the government.
He in fact bull dozed his way over Ministers Bandula Gunawardane (Cabinet Spokesman), Dinesh Gunawardena (Ministry of Labour) and Prasanna Ranatunga (Minister of Aviation) making them nothing but mere muted puppeteers in this fiasco.
Despite being in the knowledge that local Labour Laws had been blatantly flouted, it is yet to be established as to why even the often eloquently spoken Minister of Labour Dinesh Gunawardena also chose to remain mum.
Earlier Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane reiterated the fact at several media briefings that the Cabinet of Ministers in consultation with the Employment Federation of Ceylon (EFC) had come to the conclusion that only a salary deduction of a maximum of 50% could be enforced upon any employee or a payment amounting to not less than Rs 14,500 need to be paid to staff during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the fact that the national carrier is viewed as a semi-government organization, the Government of Sri Lanka owns majority of its shares and is the sole investor who pumps in treasury funds and signs sovereign guarantees to keep its national brand in the skies.
The jobs of these 400 employees could easily have been saved if a more strategic approach could have been maintained.
However Chairman Pathirage who disregarded the option provided by the government to slash 50% of staff wages, opted to instead protect his executive staff and higher ups by slicing off a neglible portion such as 25% of their lucrative wages.
For example even his Chief Executive Officer Vipula Gunatilleka, who incidentally is also a contracted staff member, still earns a handsome six figure take home packet during these trying times.
Whilst Chairman Pathirage instructed his CEO Vipula Gunatilleka to make this decision, it can be confirmed that many of the high powered corporate Board of Directors were kept in the dark and unaware of these arbitrary decisions been made by Chairman Pathirage.
A reliable source close to a Director of the Board said “Many Directors were also shocked and left bemused that Chairman Pathirage had also gone on to make a decision to send all contractual employees on forced compulsory leave without pay. The Chairman needs to have decisions ratified, approved and minuted by the Board of Directors, prior to orders being given to those running the operation of the airline. It is quite evident that Chairman Ashok Pathirage is exercising and abusing his authority under the powers of an external force.”
A senior staff member speaking on condition of anonymity as he has been directly impacted said “For an international airline of repute that supposedly exercises good employer/employee ethics, I was shocked to receive an email from one of our Human Resources managers named Lasantha Liyanage which stated ‘We are compelled to inform you, that we shall be placing you on compulsory no pay leave for a period of 3 months from 1st April 2020 to 30th June 2020. However, this no pay period is subject to extensions at the discretion of the company’.”
He concluded by saying, “If all contract staff is sent on compulsory no pay leave, then the rule should be applied even to the current CEO Vipula Gunatilleka who is also under contract, but still enjoys the luxury of a part payment in wages.”
Chairman Pathirage’s actions and decisions taken as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointed golden boy, now further fuels the underlying current and tension felt by the general public regarding the ongoing sibling rivalry between the current President and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
After all with Chairman Pathirage chopping heads of employees in such an unprecedented manner, it was Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who himself was once the champion and iconic Minister of Labour, who always looked into the best interest of employees. He in fact was responsible once for stamping the Labour Charter and ensured that matters were made more stringent in favour of the employee.
However despite this topic being circulated widely on many social media platforms, mainstream media houses besides carrying titbits on this topic, have strangely continued to remain quiet. (By Janaka Ranaweera)