ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government is not in a position to provide “instant solutions” to the issue of teachers’ salary anomalies and instead hopes to present proposals that cover the gamut of the public service in the upcoming budget come November, Education Minister Prof G L Peiris said.
Responding to a question by main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Wijeratne in parliament Tuesday (03) morning, Peiris said Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic woes brought about by the pandemic will not allow a quick fix to the teachers’ demands.
School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka have been on strike for 23 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 attracting large crowds of teachers have led to fears of new outbreaks of COVID-19.
Despite warnings from doctors, the government on Monday (02) resumed state services, with all public servants including teachers directed to report to work.
MP Wijeratne asked Peiris if teachers were being called back to work along with other government workers because the government was afraid of the wave of protests.
The education minister said the matter was discussed extensively at a cabinet meeting Monday evening. Minister Gamini Lokuge told reporters at the end of the meeting that teacher salaries will not be increased.
Said Prof Peiris: “We accept on principle that teachers are not where they ought to be right now. They need some redress. As a policy, we accept there’s a need for a pay rise.
“The government’s position is that we have to think of parallel services too. Otherwise other complications will arise. We would have to talk with the Salaries and Cadre Commission too.”
Insisting that the government is sincerely interested in solving the crisis, Peiris said: “We have great respect for teachers. But the most apt time to do this is when the budget is being presented, taking all other [government] services into account.”
That Sri Lanka is facing economic issues must also be noted, he added.
“So we cannot give an instant solution today. The government expects to present practical solutions for the gamut of the public service with the budget in November,” he said.
Responding to Peiries, Wijeratne said the teachers are not in fact asking for an immediate pay hike but for a timeline on when the salary anomalies will be removed.
Peiris reiterated that solutions will be proposed in the budget, adding that it’s Sri Lanka’s underprivileged who are suffering as a result of the ongoing trade union action. (Colombo/Aug03/2021)