Govt. acknowledges salary issue, cites dire economic situ
BY Buddhika SamaraweeraThe discussion held yesterday (27) between teachers’ and principals’ trade unions and the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees ended in a stalemate.Speaking to The Morning, Ceylon Teachers’ Services Union (CTSU) General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said the discussion ended without arriving at an agreement. Explaining further, he said that while Minister of Education Prof. G.L. Peiris had not elaborated on the proposal submitted concerning the issue to the Cabinet of Ministers on 26 July, Premier Rajapaksa had said that another proposal on this would be submitted to the Cabinet next week.The teachers’ and principals’ trade unions have, therefore, decided to continue with all their ongoing trade union actions, including the withdrawal from online teaching activities and exam duties.The trade unions are also to be given an opportunity to meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa before 30 July, following a discussion held between them and officials of the Presidential Secretariat on 22 July, in order to discuss issues including the teacher-principal salary anomaly.Another meeting between trade unions and Prof. Peiris was to be held yesterday in order to discuss the proposal submitted to the Cabinet regarding the salary anomaly issue. This meeting, however, was not held since Prof. Peiris is also a member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into the issue which met with the trade unions representatives yesterday.Meanwhile, the Government announced yesterday that although it is aware of the need to address the issue of the teacher-principal salary anomaly, it is not possible to provide an immediate solution given the current economic climate.Speaking at the weekly cabinet media briefing, Cabinet Co-Spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said the Government has now identified the need to address the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue.“However, given the current situation in the country, it is not possible to provide an immediate solution to this problem. Yet, the Government hopes to provide a solution to the issue through the next budget. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has also agreed to take the necessary steps towards that. Therefore, we kindly and respectfully request the teachers to call off this trade union action and resume teaching,” he added.Teachers’ and principals’ trade unions had decided to withdraw from all online teaching activities from 12 July until further notice, in protest over the arrest of a group of trade unionists and student activists, including Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin, and the lack of a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue. In addition to online teaching activities, teachers and principals had withdrawn from duties related to sending applications for examinations, including the GCE Advanced Level (A/L) examination, online.They had also withdrawn from teaching activities at regional learning centres recently established by the Ministry of Education with the aim of facilitating the education of students who find it difficult to pursue their education online. There are about 2,160 regional learning centres that employ nearly 30,000 teachers and principals, and the latter two groups had withdrawn from those duties too.Also, nearly 5,800 teachers and principals had decided to withdraw from the practical examination-related duties of the GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination that commenced on 26 July. CTU President Priyantha Fernando recently told The Morning that about 5,800 teachers and principals who had been assigned for practical examination duties islandwide had withdrawn from their duties in addition to continuing the other ongoing trade union actions.