Salary vs Service | Sunday Observer

Salary vs Service

Venerating those who mould the future is a tradition embedded in Sri Lankan culture. However, Sri Lankan teachers are paid the lowest of all Asian countries and their salary anomalies have not been addressed for over two decades say teachers and principals of government schools, who got ‘sick’ in droves recently. Would a strike be the right answer to alleviate their grievances? Or are they simply jumping the gun unable to wait a little more for a permanent solution?

Teacher Trade Unions, teachers and Principals went on strike last Tuesday (March 12) shutting down Government schools and crippling the education sector. Strikers stress that their salary anomalies for the past 22 years had not been addressed. The Yahapalana Government which came to power in 2015 increased the salary of graduate teachers from Rs. 16,120 to Rs. 33,330. A Principal’s allowances of Rs. 750 was increased to Rs. 6,000 according to sources from the Ministry of Education.

Special Commission

On instructions from the Minister of Education, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, the Education Ministry has prepared a set of proposals to solve the salary anomalies of teachers and Principals and other officers and had referred it last September to a Special Commission appointed to eliminate public service salary anomalies. When recommendations are received the Ministry will pursue action to do away with the anomalies. The teacher strike deprived 4.3 million students of 25,800,000 man hours of learning.

Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte Maha Vidyalaya Principal Lt. Col. D. A. D. Wanaguru questions as to what the teachers and Principals achieved through the recent strike. He said that instead of achieving the aim of the strike, students were deprived of a day’s education. “ In my opinion,this strike was a useless one and the teachers participated without having any knowledge of what the strike was all about. We, the teachers and the Principals islandwide did not achieve anything. I agree that we all like salary increments but this strike was an unfair one. Certain Trade Unions are trying to gain political mileage through teachers and Principals of government schools,” he said.

He said that we have to understand that the Government has already taken steps to rectify salary anomalies of teachers and Principals by appointing a Special Salaries Commission to increase public sector salaries. “The Government is introducing a new salary scheme based on the recommendations put forward by the Commission. Last September, the President appointed a 15-member Commission chaired by S. Ranugge to conduct a study of salary structures in the public service and to minimise salary anomalies among different services in the entire public service. The teachers and Principals are being taken for a ride by these trade unions at a time when the Government has taken measures to solve the salary issues,” he explained.

A spokesperson for Royal College, Colombo said, “Almost all the teachers were present at Royal College on the day of the teacher’s strike went on.

Approximately 1500 students attended school and according to the tradition and culture of Royal College, we do not take part in strikes. We always try to keep up to our traditions. Royal College is not controlled either by the trade unions nor the Authorities when it comes to disrupting the education and the normal activities of the school,” he said.

National Organiser of the Association of Educational Professionals, Roshan Priyashantha Premasiri said that the Ministry of Education is very irresponsible and that there is no responsible response from it regarding the strike which was held recently. “The Trade Unions are very serious about this issue. The teachers and Principals should be given a good explanation and a solution for the problem. If not we will strike again to gain our rights in a fair manner. If a proper response is not given by the education authorities, we are planning to strike again and take some action again on Thursday (21),” he added.

Many reasons

Premasiri said that there are many reasons for the strike conducted by the teachers and Principals. “Since 1997, the teachers and Principals have been demanding for a salary increase and for a rectification of salary anomalies. We also demand the release of teachers and Principals wasting time on paper work neglecting the lessons in classrooms. We request for six percent of the GDP to be allocated for education and to modify and increase the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. Any particulars regarding these issues were not addressed in the recent budget,” Premasiri explained.

Education Ministry Secretary Pathmasiri Jayamanne when contacted said the Ministry was not in a position to increase salaries on the grounds that the Ministry could not take independent decisions. “A set of proposals have been submitted to the Special Salaries Commission, the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance.

It is left to them to increase salaries. I have explained this to the trade unions during several discussions held with them. There will be no salary increases at this point. However, I have informed the authorities to look into the matter about the unnecessary paperwork. I request the education sector trade unions not to take hasty decisions and stop work,” Jayamanne added.

Proposals

He added that the proposals by the Education Ministry aimed at rectifying the salary anomalies of teachers and Principals have already been handed over to the Special Commission reviewing public sector salaries. “The salary anomalies will definitely be rectified after receiving the recommendations of the Commission,” he said.

Ceylon Teachers Union President, Joseph Stalin, said that they planned to go on a strike after many deliberations. “We have asked for the salary anomalies to be rectified and an increment to be granted. We asked for meetings with the Education Ministry officials but our demands have fallen on deaf ears. We reached a collective decision to go on sick leave.

This year’s budget also makes no mention of salary increments much to our dismay. No government to-date has been able to rectify this matter. Sri Lankan teachers are the lowest paid when compared to the profession in other Asian countries. We want to show this government as we have shown to successive governments in the past that this is an issue which needs to be looked into,” he said.

The CTU, along with representatives of 30 trade unions met Pathmasiri Jayamanne, the Secretary of Education on Tuesday to discuss the issue and presented him with the documents. However, there was no response or even acknowledgement of the documents from the Ministry, Stalin told the Sunday Observer on Friday. “Education authorities, especially those in the Ministry discriminate against teachers, and treat us as powerless.

Through our strike we will show them how much power we wield. Though they talk about a set of recommendations, we are not informed about any though we requested them to do so. They are not ready to give them to us. They talk about popular education such as 13 years of education and about ‘ the nearest school is the best school.’ I think it is a total failure. Without addressing the basic issues of the teachers and Principals how could you make the nearest school the best school?, he asked.

A parent

A parent, Sudarshi Hemawansa whose child is schooling at Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo said that the demand of the teachers and Principals to increase their monthly salaries is fair and justifiable. “Teachers do a great service to the society by moulding and guiding the children. When you compare with the other professions, both the physical and mental energy put forward by teachers is really great.

They do a lot of hard work to teach the children. As a parent, I believe that their salaries should definitely increase. However, as their salaries are insufficient, they to earn money through conducting extra tuition classes.

Today, many people blame the teachers who conduct extra classes but they do it because they need an income for daily expenses,” she said.

Lanka Teacher Service Union, General Secretary, Mahinda Jayasinghe said that they will re-launch the strike if the authorities do not settle their issues.

The Government and the educational authorities should take immediate action to resolve the issues of the teachers and the Principals as otherwise it can directly have a negative impact on the children who are considered the future of the country.

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