Written by Zulfick Farzan
03 Aug, 2021 | 1:01 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); Parents have also joined several protests that were organized by teachers and principals demanding that their issues be solved.
Teachers and principals have rejected the Education Secretary’s order to report to work in accordance to the circular issued for public sector employees.
Teachers and Principals have been protesting for almost 23 days all around the country, in an unprecedented show of force.
Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella speaking at the weekly cabinet briefing stressed that the country is currently going through a tough period and political groups are using the demands of the teachers and principals are means of achieving their own goals.
‘As per policy we believe we need to work on these matters,’ he said adding that however, the program will be considered for the next budget.
‘We must also look at the salaries and wages of other sectors in the public service,’ he added.
The Minister also said he is quite happy that his picture is being used at the protests following a comment that he made on teachers and principals trade union action adding that the use of picture will be a political advantage.
He said his recent comment that sparked outrage among the teachers and principals is wise to be used on the groups that are steering the teachers and principals to step away from teaching, adding that he considered teachers and principals as great individuals.
State Minister Anuradha Jayaratne also said it would take time to solve the issue and urged all those involved in the protests to think about the future of the children.
However, opposition lawmaker Dilip Wedarachchi slammed the government for demonizing the requests made by the teachers and principals and for referring to them as lackadaisical.
Education Minister (Professor) G. L. Peiris told Parliament that the matter was discussed at the cabinet meeting on Monday (02) and there is a policy-based agreement that teachers have not been given their due recognition.
He said is it clear that salaries of teachers need to be increased.
However, this has been a perennial issue and the government position is that other sectors in the public service will have to considered because by increasing the salaries of one sector alone, the situation be more complicated, said the Education Minister.
He said the matter will be discussed with the salaries and wages commission and thereafter a suitable pay rise for the entire public sector will be considered for the next budget.
Opposition lawmaker Rohini Kumari Wijerathna demanded the government to assure that the salary wage will be made and that the teaching service will be made an inclusive service.
Sri Lanka’s Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge said the government would require Rs. 56 Bn to solve the salary anomaly issue faced by the teachers and principals.
He said the teachers and principals have the right to protest, however, the government is not in a position to allocate Rs. 56 Bn for that purpose.
“We will consider it in the budget,” the Minister told reporters after the cabinet meeting on Monday (02).
“We discussed it and we decided to explain the situation to them,” he said adding that the Cabinet of Ministers unanimously decided to consider the demand for the next budget and explain the situation to the protesting teachers and principals.
However, teachers and principals have rejected these claims by the government and continued with their daily protests.
On the 12th of July, Fourteen trade unions representing teachers and principals went on strike despite calls from the government to give up their trade union action and continue with teaching activities.
The Trade Unions representing Teachers and Principals are making the following key demands :
01. Permanent solution to the perennial salary anomaly issue.
02. Immediate withdrawal of the Kotelawala Defence University Bill
03. Allocation of 6% of GDP for education
04. Permanent solutions to service issues faced by Principals and Teachers.
05. System for Extra-Curricular Activities attended by Teachers and Principals
How did the issue begin?
The Sri Lanka Teacher’s Service was established in 1994, with each grade bearing a salary similar to other sectors in the public administrative service.
Trade unions say the B.C. Perera Salaries Commission of 1997 and the Lionel Fernando and Saliya Mathew Salaries Commission of 2006 had recommended considering teaching as a separate service.
They pointed out that teachers had not received salary increments in 1997 when the salaries for other sectors had been hiked.
When the matter was referred to the court in 2008, the court had ordered teaching to be considered a separate service.
Trade unions say that the salary increments offered to teachers and principals are not equal to the salaries earned in other sectors.
They outline that the salary of a Grade-1 teacher should increase by about 29,000 rupees if the increments are to be made in line with other services in the public sector.
Under this government, education minister Professor G.L. Peiris had appointed a special committee and obtained recommendations on this matter. A cabinet-sub committee has also been appointed.
Trade Unions have rejected the appointment of the sub-committee noting that the appointment of sub-committees has been taking place for many years under every successive government, with no solution being granted to their issues.
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