Claim PM-led Cabinet Sub-Committee an attempt to mislead TUs
Meeting with Prez supposed to take place before tomorrow
BY Buddhika SamaraweeraThe teachers’ and principals’ trade unions that have withdrawn from teaching activities and examination-related duties have emphasised that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should immediately intervene in, and provide a concrete solution to, the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue.The Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU) has said that if the Premier, the Education Minister, and other authorities are unable to provide a solution to the problems of teachers and principals, the President should intervene immediately.“All the trade union actions that have been initiated by now, including the withdrawal from online teaching activities, which continued for the 17th day yesterday, were extremely successful. We will not call off any of them until the receipt of a permanent solution,” CTSU General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe told The Morning yesterday (28).The trade unions were scheduled to be given an opportunity to meet President Rajapaksa before tomorrow (30), 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.Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin noted that they were waiting for the discussion with the President, and warned of further trade union action if the Government continues to delay providing solutions to teachers’ and principals’ issues.The trade unions have further alleged that the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into the issue of the teacher-principal salary anomaly – headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – was an attempt to mislead the trade unions, and a mere time-buying exercise.Speaking at a media briefing held yesterday (28), Stalin said that although a discussion was held at the Temple Trees on 27 July between some members of the said Cabinet Sub-Committee and teachers’ and principals’ trade unions representatives, no definite agreement was reached there.“We hoped for a permanent solution to our problems following that discussion, but it was a complete failure,” he added.Noting that they were not even informed about the members of that Cabinet Sub-Committee, Stalin claimed that they, therefore, see it as an attempt by the Government to disrupt the ongoing trade union struggle, and to mislead the trade unions.The discussion held on 27 July between teachers’ and principals’ trade unions and the Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by the Premier ended in a stalemate. Speaking to The Morning following the meeting, Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU) General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said that the particular discussion had ended without arriving at an agreement.Explaining further, he added that while Education Minister 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 the matter would be submitted to Cabinet next week.However, the Government announced on 27 July that although it is aware of the need to address the issue of the teacher-principal salary anomaly, implementing an immediate solution is impossible, given the current economic climate.Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing, Cabinet Co-Spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said that 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 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 General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A/L) Examination, online.They had also withdrawn from teaching activities at the regional learning centres recently established by the Education Ministry 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 to practical examination duties Islandwide had withdrawn from their duties, in addition to continuing the other ongoing trade union actions.