Teachers reject 2-stage salary hike

  • Contradict PM’s Office claim of ‘successfully ending’ strike
  • To continue strike demanding salary hike in one go
  • Threaten to continue for ‘100-150 days and even beyond’

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Despite the much publicised, nearly three-hour discussion held with Prime Minister (PM) Mahinda Rajapaksa regarding the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue on Tuesday (12), the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions (TUs) have decided to continue the series of ongoing trade union actions including the strike, demanding a solution more acceptable to them.

During the discussion held between the teachers’ and principals’ trade union representatives and Rajapaksa on Tuesday, the Government had agreed to grant the salary increase recommended by the Cabinet Sub-Committee which was recently appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, in two stages, in January of 2022 and 2023.

However, a press release issued by the PM’s Office last (13) evening said that the PM had successfully ended the prolonged trade union action through the meeting.

“This afternoon (12) at the Temple Trees, addressing the representatives of the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to increase the salaries in three instalments in two Budget stages as a resolution to eliminate their salary anomalies, successfully ending 93-day trade union actions,” the release stated.

It added that the Prime Minister emphasised that as continuing the education of children without any hindrance is at the top of priorities of the nation, the Government is very sensitive to the educators’ concerns and, therefore, no salary anomalies are to be disregarded. However, as Treasury receipts were limited due to the Covid-19 epidemic, all instalments could not be allowed at once, it added.

Following the nearly three-hour discussion on Tuesday, the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions stated that they would make an announcement yesterday on whether they would continue with the ongoing series of trade union actions or abandon such.

However, contrary to the PM’s Office press release, several trade unions, including the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) and the Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union (CTSU), yesterday stated that they will continue to implement all the trade union actions that are currently ongoing as they do not accept the said salary increase being given in two stages.

Speaking at a media briefing, CTU General Secretary Joseph Stalin said that the trade union’s demand is that the salary increase recommended by the relevant Cabinet Sub-Committee be granted at once. Claiming that it would cost a sum of approximately Rs. 30 billion to do so, Stalin charged that the Government is currently spending even more on certain other projects that are not of much use.

“During the discussion with the Prime Minister, we requested that the salary increase recommended by the Cabinet Sub-Committee be granted at once, but Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle and certain other officials continued to say that it is not possible. What we ask is to provide us with this salary increase at once, as part of the recommendations made by the Subodhini Committee (a Committee which was previously appointed to look into the salary anomaly issue),” he added.

Speaking further, Stalin emphasised that the Government should make a decision in this regard as soon as possible, while stressing that the trade union actions would continue until an acceptable solution is found.

Meanwhile, CTSU General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe also expressed his views at a media briefing yesterday.
He stated that if the decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers is to be implemented as it is, then there is no result to be gained by holding discussions on it. He also said that during the discussion held with Rajapaksa, it was made clear that the trade unions were not ready to accept whatever solution was offered by the Government, noting that they would only accept a solution that is acceptable to them.

“We said that this salary increase should be given at once, but Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that they are ready to provide it in two stages. We are not ready to accept it at all. We have continued to be flexible in this regard but the Government does not seem to be interested in providing a fair solution for this issue.”

Jayasinghe also said that millions of students are suffering due to the ongoing trade union actions and that the Government should therefore provide an acceptable solution as soon as possible. Otherwise, he warned, the trade union actions, which are currently in effect, will continue for 100 or 150 days or any other period.

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. The trade unions actions mark the 95th day today (14).