Teachers salary anomalies : Negotiations between GL and TUs break down
By Thameenah Razeek
Talks between Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and Teacher Trade Union leaders failed, as TU leaders insisted that they cannot wait till the Budget is passed to resolve their salary anomalies and they cannot trust the Government. Ceylon Teachers’ Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin said unions will continue their struggle until they win their demands.
Minister Peiris said calling for an immediate solution to the salary inequality concerns that have persisted for 24 years, at a time when not only Sri Lanka, but the entire globe was in a serious economic crisis was unfair. He said so at yesterday’s meeting with trade unions. The Government reminded them of the history regarding the issue and that the problem had existed for roughly 24 years and passed on from one government to the next. He said this was not a recent issue and had existed for some time.
He said the situation was one that has now befallen this Government and not reporting to work or not teaching children was not a fitting response at this time. “At a time when the entire world is experiencing a terrible economic crisis, the Administration led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has taken steps to pay public officials’ salaries, including teacher salaries, at a time when other Nations were even deducting salaries,” the Minister told the Media after a meeting with members of the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Unions at the Ministry of Education yesterday.
Further, he said making such a request was impractical in an environment where all State revenue sources such as VAT, Customs, Excise and migrant labour have been badly impacted. The Minister said while allegations were levelled against the Secretary of Education in relation to a recently published Circular, the Circular was not issued at the Secretary’s behest.
Meanwhile, Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, said at the Cabinet Media briefing yesterday that teachers who refuse to report for work and are on strike will not be considered as having vacated their post, despite the Government’s circular calling for public employees to report to work from 2 August. He stated that teachers, who are seen as important members of society, should be more responsible when it comes to children and education, and that they have no grudges towards teachers because their demands are reasonable.
Therefore, he said they will not take disciplinary action against teachers who refuse to report for work and that they have provided an open space for teachers to examine the current state of the Government and to report to work. According to Dr. Pathirana, the Government has no backup plan if the teachers go on strike indefinitely. He added that they are banking on the notion that the teachers will eventually return to work once they understand the situation.