Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 May 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Lecturers' trade union action not driven by political forces

Ven. Dr. Agalakada Sirisumana Dr. Damma Dissanayake Dr. Nirmal Devasiri Jagath Wellawatte Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne

University academics yesterday insisted that their trade union action was not intended to embarrass or inconvenience the Government but instead was to get off the ground an immediate restructuring of the salaries in the university sector, rectifying the long-standing anomalies.

Senior university lecturers said they were appealing to the government to look into their demands, based on genuine grievances, with an open mind as they did not wish to get into a collision course and disrupt the functions of the universities.

President of the Federation of University Teachers' Associations Dr. Nirmal Devasiri, Faculty of Arts, Colombo University said they were not demanding a 200 per cent salary increase as reported in the media. "It was a mistake on my part. It was a wrong interpretation but actually our demands are much less than that. And we are ready to discuss them with the President."

He said their trade union action was not politically driven adding that it was unfortunate to brand their effort as an anti-Government initiative.

"The Majority of the FUTA membership wholeheartedly backed the UPFA government from the beginning and backed the President during the past two elections which elected him to office."

"We are helpless if the political parties such as JVP and the UNP try to gain political mileage out of genuine grievances of the university lecturers. We cannot ask them not to issue statements", he said.

"This is a genuine issue and I hope the officials will understand".

He pointed out that the Higher Education Minister in a historic statement made to Parliament in July promised a salary point of Rs. 200,000 for a senior professor as a solution to the country's 'brain drain'. This had been an initial proposal by the FUTA. However after subsequent negotiations a compromise was made to cut down on their demands.

At these negotiation rounds the lecturers were promised to pay 25% interim allowance from December 2009 until their salary anomalies were rectified. But it has been a dead promise up to date.

He said they were hoping to take this up with the President and clear any misunderstandings one on one.

The FUTA demands are: A salary increase up to basic salary point for a professor Rs. 135,000 plus an academic allowance of 25 per cent, Senior Professor Rs. 167,000 plus the academic allowance and senior lecturer grade II for which majority of lecturers in the university sector belong to, an increase up to Rs. 88,000 from the current Rs. 37,650

The current basic salary for a senior professor is Rs. 57,000.

He said the State university sector has the lowest academic salaries when considered internationally, regionally and even locally.

India offers a salary equivalent to about Rs. 100,000 (LKR) for a Lecturer with a Ph.D and about Rs. 200,000(LKR) for a Senior Professor with effect from 2006. In addition they are also given a housing allowance (up to 30% basic salary), a transport allowance and an allowance for the education of their children.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are among the countries that offer attractive salaries for university academics. China and India recently joined in increasing the salaries to acceptable levels. The university sector salaries were placed on a somewhat higher scale than that of the Central Bank in the early days. In 1970s the young varsity leavers of upper strata had two options, either to continue as a junior lecturer or join the central bank. The university was always a better option remuneration-wise.

But with the passage of time it has become lopsided and the widening gap has become a humiliation to the university academics.

The difference of the two salary structures are as follows,

In 1970s

Asst. Lecturer starting salary point was Rs. 700

Central Bank starting point was Rs. 600


Starting salary for probation lecturer Rs.26,900

At Central Bank a management trainee with similar qualifications is offered Rs. 45,000

He said their demands were very reasonable considering the fact that a Member of Parliament receives a basic of Rs.54,000 by today whereas they drew lower salaries than that of university academics in the 70s. "Our demand is more about restoring dignity in the profession."

The academics do not enjoy the general perks such as housing loans, medical schemes and a privilege of quota to enter their children to popular schools which are offered to public servants. They have to languish for 12 years to be eligible to apply for vehicle permits where as a public sector executive is allowed to obtain a permit after six years.

Senior Lecturer Ven. Agalakada Sirisumana Thera said, "We have never resorted to a trade union action demanding exclusive pay hikes during the time of the conflict. It was our general consensus that we must not be unreasonable. We agreed the Government should be given space to attend to the most crucial issue at hand - 'elimination of terrorism'".

But we feel that it is time that the Government paid attention to our long-standing anomalies.

"We received a five per cent pay hike under the 2011 budget proposals. This was given to all the public servants. Our issue is unique and it needs to be treated likewise."

Lecturers opine that a research grant is not the immediate problem of the university academics. We already have various funds within the universities to obtain financial assistance for research purposes. Besides the proposed criteria to apply and obtain the particular research grant from the UGC is unrealistic. Furthermore it will be for a limited period like two years. This proposal will not settle the anomalies that have existed for years.

Director General Jana Sabha Secretariat of the Economic Development Ministry Damma Dissanayake who serves as a senior lecturer at Colombo University said the majority of the university academics who helped bring this Government to office too were affected by the salary issue. The trade union action was launched with the blessings of these lecturers as well as it represents the genuine grievances of the academia. It does not represent anyone's political agenda.

"I believe they are rational and reasonable demands and that Government should resolve this matter through negotiations."

State Mortgage Bank Chairman Jagath Wellawatte, a lecturer himself, said there is no argument that the university teachers' salaries need to be revised and there were long-standing discrepancies. This issue has to be settled through negotiations and rational argument.

"Any process towards settling the issue between academics and education authorities should not compromise each other's dignity. The university teachers issues cannot be resolved via heated arguments and they cannot be treated as labourers," Wellawatte said. He said in the meantime FUTA should also try to be flexible in winning their demands and be smart not to fall prey or become some political cat's paw. He said over 55 per cent of the FUTA membership represents progressive elements which are strongly behind the UPFA government. Only 3% back the JVP and 10% are behind the UNP. There are another 15% who have no political affiliations.

Higher Education Ministry Secretary Sunil J. Navaratne said the lecturers were having an easy life in universities engaged in one way teaching whereas they should dedicate some of their time on research to help improve his teaching aptitude. The research allowance was intended to motivate the lecturers to take up to research and improve and update their knowledge. It is not a condition which is unreasonable.

He said the lecturers demands were totally unrealistic especially since the Government has already agreed for a 36 per cent pay hike effected as follows:

Salary increase of 5%, paid to all public servants, 6.25% of their salary paid exclusively to university academics plus the 25% research allowance.

He said the academics were demanding a 40% pay hike and the Government has offered a 36.25% increase which in his opinion was a good bargain.


Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior | Magazine |


Produced by Lake House Copyright 2011 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor