ECONOMYNEXT – As an ongoing strike by Sri Lanka’s school teachers and principals over long-running salary anomalies is about to move into its second month, the cabinet of ministers on Monday (09) appointed a four-member committee to recommend a mutually agreeable solution to the crisis by next week.
Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Dallus Alahapperuma, Prasanna Ranathunga, and Mahindananda Amaraweera comprise the committee, co-cabinet spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Tuesday (10).
The committee is expected to submit a report to Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa by next Monday’s cabinet meeting, said Rambukwella, as solving the issue will cost the government 60 to 70 billion rupees.
If recommendations by previous committees (the B C Perera and Subodhini committees) or by the Salary and Cadre Commission were not acceptable, he said, the two sides can meet halfway and discuss when a mutually agreed upon solution might be implemented.
The government is serious about the matter, he said.
School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka have been on strike for 29 days running over the question of salary anomalies that they say goes back 24 years – an issue that successive governments have failed to resolve. Daily protests in different parts of the island organised by teachers’ unions attracted large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.
The unions recently called off the protests in light of the rapidly spreading delta variant, as COVID-19 deaths surged past the 5,000 mark.
“Objectively, there is an anomaly. We approach this issue from the perspective that the teachers’ being stressed about this issue is completely fair. I must stress that, as a government, we’re clearly of the position that an interim solution must be provided,” the minister said.
He did, however, allege that a handful of individuals have brought the country to a standstill with their protests over the salary issue. Rambukwella urged teachers to use to be rational about the current pandemic situation and not give into emotion.
Last Monday (03), Education Minister Prof G L Peiris said the government is not in a position to provide “instant solutions” to the issue and instead hopes to present proposals that cover the gamut of the public service in the upcoming budget come November. (Colombo/Aug10/2021)