ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Trade Union Alliance (SLTUA) has threatened to join school teachers and principals who are currently on strike for 81 days running over unresolved salary anomalies.
Inter-Company Employees’ Union Chairman and former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Wasantha Samarasinghe told reporters on Tuesday (28) that the SLTDA, after a series of discussions, has agreed to support the teachers’ cause.
“It has been over two and half months and the government had enough time to solve the teachers’ and principals’ salary anomaly. After several rounds of talks with all unions gathered here, we have decided to support the strike until a solution is given,” he said.
Teachers and principals have been on strike and have withdrawn from online education since July 11. A series of protests were held in July and August until surging cases of COVID-19 put a stop to it. A number of protestors were arrested and sent to “forced quarantine” but were subsequently released.
The cash-strapped government has been forced to look into the matter, with the education minister proposing a 5,000-rupee allowance for teachers and principals who will be on duty in September and October, the months in which the government has planned to hold GCE Advanced Level and grade 5 scholarship examinations.
The government has postponed the two key exams, drawing public criticism.
The minister has said that implementation of the salary revisions will be done in stages through a 2022 budget proposal. Full implementation will be done in the next four years.
The government also decided to declare the teacher and principals services as closed services on August 31.
Though the trade unions have welcomed the decisions of a “closed service” and a salary hike through the 2022 budget proposals, they have not given up the demand to have the salary anomalies fixed as a part of the previous Subodhini committee report.
SLTUA Chairman Samarasighe said the teachers have yet to hear a response from the authorities about their view on the matter.
“It is time that the finance minister and the education minister came forward and discussed solutions with the teachers. If the government is not ready to do that, we as the trade union alliance would like to say that the teachers are not alone in this fight,” he said.
Samarasinghe said, what with the government allocating funds for construction and other projects, it is vital that it immediately focus on the teachers’ salary anomaly and restore education in the country. The strike has affected more than four million students, he said.
I the government fails to respond, trade unions in semi-government, government and private sectors will put their weight behind the strike, he added. (Colombo/Sep29/2021)