Teachers and principals to return to work today, says union alliance
a year ago
State they will only conduct lessons, not engage in extra activities like workshops
By Buddhika SamaraweeraTeachers and principals who have been engaged in trade union action for more than 100 days demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, are due to report back to schools from today (25), according to the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Union Alliance (TPTUA).The Education Ministry announced last Friday (22) that the primary grades of all schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation would be reopened today.Accordingly, the TPTUA announced yesterday (24) that it would end the trade union action to withdraw from teaching activities and resume teaching activities in schools from today. However, they stated that they would not be engaged in any other duties besides teaching.The TPTUA has also planned to hold a series of protests today demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue and the main protest is to be held in front of the Colombo Fort Railway Station.They further alleged that students and teachers who have to travel to distant schools have been severely inconvenienced due to the sudden decision of the Education Ministry to reopen schools in a background where inter-provincial travel restrictions remain in effect.Speaking at a media briefing, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin said that the Education Ministry should immediately intervene and formulate a programme for teachers and principals working in remote areas to travel to their respective schools. He stressed that if such a programme is not prepared, action should be taken to grant leave to such teachers and principals.He also said that from today, teachers would only be engaged in teaching and would not perform any extra duties such as cleaning schools, as well as organising certain meetings and workshops.“We have seen in the past few days that various politicians have been going to schools and cleaning schools. So now they have to continue cleaning schools; we are not participating in that,” he said.He also said that teachers and principals would refrain from using their personal mobile phones for teaching purposes in the future, adding that online teaching activities would be resumed only if teachers are provided the necessary facilities.Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU) General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe also commented on the matter, stating: “As previously announced, we will report to work from today. We have seen various parties representing the Government say that the teachers’ struggle is over now and therefore there is no problem; but if anyone thinks that our struggle is over, it is a very wrong idea. Now only we are taking this struggle forward in a new dimension.”He also said that the TPTUA would not make any further requests from the Government or the Education Ministry to discuss their issues, as done in the past, adding that they would only participate if invited by the Government.“Instead of requesting discussions, we will get into more strict trade union actions in the future,” he warned.Speaking further, Jayasinghe said that despite the decision of the Education Ministry to reopen schools today, no practical measures have been taken to activate public transport services for teachers and students to attend schools, and that teachers working in remote schools should be given leave until public transport services are resumed.When inquired about the matter, Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera stated that if there are teachers who are not unable to acquire transport facilities, they are able to report to work at the nearest school instead. However, he added that teachers have the ability to go to schools via buses that transport passengers engaged in essential services.When asked about school cleaning activities, he said: “School cleaning is being done as much as possible, especially with the participation of parents, so there will be no problem.”Nearly 30 teachers’ and principals’ trade unions have embarked on a number of trade union actions, including withdrawal from all physical and online teaching activities and examination-related duties, demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue since 12 July 2021.However, the TPTUA last week decided to relax the trade union actions and resume teaching activities and return to examination-related duties from today. However, they have warned that they hope to launch a number of other trade union actions from time to time, such as protests, strikes, and parental awareness programmes, from today.