Cabinet Sub-Committee defends teacher salary solution 

  • Implores teachers-principals to end strike 
  • Rs. 5K allowance, Basil’s idea: Wimal 
  • TUs reject Wimal’s plea 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The measures that were announced earlier this week by the Government to address the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue are the most reasonable solutions that can be provided in the face of a sharp decline in Government revenue amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa said yesterday (1). 

“We as a Government have taken the most reasonable decisions on this issue at a very difficult time, so we kindly request the teachers and principals to resume education on behalf of the children,” Weerawansa, a member of the Cabinet Sub-Committee (SC) appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, said addressing a media briefing yesterday (1). 

He said that the Treasury would decide in the future as to whether to provide the teachers and principals with the salary increments at once or in installments in order to resolve the salary anomaly issue. He added that the Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa would clarify the matter when the latter presents the budget proposal for the year 2022 in Parliament in November 2021. 

Meanwhile, Weerawansa commented on the decision taken by the Cabinet to pay an allowance of Rs. 5,000 per month to teachers and principals for the months of September and October until the relevant salary revisions are made through the budget proposal. 

“The decision to pay the Rs. 5,000 allowance was not a recommendation of the Sub-Committee. It was a proposal made by Basil Rajapaksa and through the provision of that allowance, it is hoped to create a level of confidence among the teachers that the Government would work on the announced measures to resolve the issue,” he noted. 

However, commenting on the statement made by Weerawansa, the Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) President Priyantha Fernando said that they do not accept the solutions announced by the Government. Accordingly, all trade union (TU) actions that are currently in place will continue and we hope to further intensify them in the future, he warned. 

Fernando also said: “We request the Government to implement the recommendations of the ‘Subodhini’ Committee appointed by the Government itself to resolve the issue of the teacher-principal salary anomalies. If the recommendations of the Government appointed Committee cannot be implemented, we have no choice but to continue the trade union struggle.” 

He also said that there are many contradictions regarding the solutions that have been put forward by the Government. “For example, an allowance of Rs. 5,000 is to be paid for the months of September and October 2021. But there is no mention of how it would be paid. The Government has also stated that the said allowance would be paid for those who would report to duty, but there is no mention of how to identify those who report to duty in the current situation where the schools are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he elaborated.

The trade union actions initiated by teachers and principals trade unions, including the withdrawal from online and physical teaching activities and examination related duties demanding a solution to their issues, in particular the salary anomaly issue, marked the 52nd day yesterday. 

The report prepared by the Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue was discussed at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting held on 30 August. 

Accordingly, Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena announced the Government’s stance regarding the solutions planned to be provided to the relevant issues, including that of the salary anomalies, at the weekly Cabinet media briefing on 31 August. According to Gunawardena, through the budget proposal for the year 2022, the Government hopes to make salary revisions to address the salary anomalies of teachers and principals. He further said that the Cabinet has granted approval to pay a monthly allowance of Rs. 5,000 to teachers and principals for the months of September and October 2021 until the budget proposal is presented to the Parliament. He also added that the services of teachers, teaching instructors, and principals would be declared a closed service through a gazette notification to be issued before 20 November 2021. 

Nearly 30 teachers and principals trade unions have embarked on a number of trade union actions, demanding a solution to the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, the provision of facilities for teachers and students to carry out online education activities, and several other issues since 12 July 2021. 

The trade unions had decided to withdraw from all online teaching activities in protest over 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 Advanced Level (GCE A/L) Examination online. 

They had also withdrawn from teaching activities at regional learning centres recently established by the Education Ministry. Also, nearly 5,800 teachers and principals had decided to withdraw from practical examination related duties of the GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) Examination that commenced on 26 July, and also from duties related to the GCE A/L and Grade Five Scholarship Examinations that are to be held in November 2021. 

Attempts to contact Gunawardena and Ministry of Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera were not successful.