News

Teachers’ TU action to continue till Budget reading

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Union Alliance (TPTUA) has stated that they would not abandon any trade union action, including the work-to-rule campaign that is currently in effect in protest over the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, until the Budget proposal for the 2022 financial year is presented to the Parliament.

Speaking to the media, Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin said that it will be announced on 14 November as to whether the TPTUA would abandon the ongoing trade union actions or not, based on the proposals with regard to their salary anomaly issue which are mentioned in the Budget and which will be presented to the Parliament today (12).

He also said the Government should take steps to implement the other recommendations made by the Cabinet Subcommittee appointed to look into the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue, in addition to the provision of the salary increase recommended by the said Subcommittee, in one go.

“The Cabinet Subcommittee not only recommended a salary increase, but also made recommendations on a number of issues in the field of education, including issues related to the promotions of teachers and principals. In addition, it recommended that the teachers’ and principals’ service be declared a closed service before 20 November. Therefore, all these recommendations should be implemented within the given time frame,” he said.

Speaking further, Stalin said the Government should take steps to provide some relief to the teachers and principals who retired this year and last year, since they have also been facing various hardships due to the salary anomaly issue, adding: “Teachers and principals who have retired in the past have also faced hardships due to this issue, so they deserve some justice too.”

He also claimed that the Sri Lanka Podujana Education Services Union (SLPESU), led by Wasantha Handapangoda, was attempting to show that the Government had decided to grant the salary increase recommended by the said Subcommittee in one go in line with a proposal made by them (the SLPESU), adding, however, that this was a victory achieved by the entire teacher-principal community amidst many obstacles.

Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa, on 10 November, agreed to grant the salary increase recommended by the Cabinet Subcommittee in one go, through the Budget proposal for the financial year 2022. The decision was announced when the representatives of the TPTUA met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Finance Minister to discuss the teacher-principal salary anomaly issue.

A Cabinet Subcommittee was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to look into the salary anomaly issue, and the report prepared by the said Subcommittee was discussed at the cabinet meeting held on 30 August 2021. Accordingly, Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena, at the time, announced that through the Budget proposal for the year 2022, the relevant salary revisions would be given to resolve the teachers’ and principals’ salary anomalies.

Earlier, it had been suggested to grant the said salary increase in two stages, during a meeting held between trade union representatives and Premier Rajapaksa. However, the trade unions have been insisting that it be provided at once, as part of the Subodhini Committee report’s recommendations, the latter being a committee which was previously appointed to look into the salary anomaly issue of teachers and principals.

However, the trade unions did not accept Gunawardena’s announcement and 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. They have since relaxed some of these trade union actions, including by returning to physical teaching in schools under a work-to-rule campaign.