Teachers are going ahead with a two-day strike in schools throughout the island as the dead-lock between the National Salaries and Cadres Commission (NSCC) and the teachers’ unions continues. The strike to be held tomorrow and on Tuesday is expected to cripple functions of most schools in the country, except in certain parts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces where the teachers would not be taking part in the protest campaign.
However the unions have sent out leaflets calling teachers in the north and east also to join the trade union action. Salaries and Cadres Commission co-chairman Lionel Fernando said the NSCC is working on the matter though it does not publicize developments regarding the issue. “We are investigating the replies we received from the unions explaining their salary anomalies in response to the requests we made in accordance with the Cabinet decisions,” he said.
The Cabinet had taken two decisions regarding this issue on September 5 – one requesting the B.G. Karunaratne Committee which was appointed by the Ministry to look into the matter and to submit its report to the Cabinet and NSCC before December 31 and the other ordering the NSCC to investigate the salary anomalies, if there were any, and submit a report to the Cabinet before December 31, regardless of whether the B.G. Karunaratne report was received or not.
“So, even if we do not receive the B.G. Karunaratne report by December 31, we will give a solution to the anomalies we investigated”, Mr. Fernando said but refused to explain the progress of investigations. The Cabinet had appointed a sub-committee of Ministers Karu Jayasuriya, D.E.W. Gunasekara and John Seneviratne to resolve the matter.
However, Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said mere statements from the Government that the salary anomalies would be resolved by the end of this year cannot be accepted.“The Prime Minister discussed with us and promised to resolve the problem but he didn’t even send a letter confirming us that he is working on the matter. We only received a letter from his co-ordinating secretary saying that the Cabinet was informed,”he said.
“We were told that the salary anomaly problem will be resolved several times before as well but it was never done. So we wouldn’t accept mere statements that it will be resolved,” he said. Meanwhile, preparing the schools for the two-day strike, Minister Susil Premajayanth said the principals have been informed to carry on with the normal school activities despite the interruption the strike of the teachers may cause.
“Anyway, even on normal days 20% of the teachers are on leave and the rest who are present manage the school. The same thing could be done here as well,” he said even though he refused to estimate the number of teachers who may go on strike tomorrow.
“Only 5 out of many teachers’ unions have informed us about the strike,” the Minister said. “The ministry did everything it could. The Cabinet asked the Salaries and Cadre Commission to submit its report before December 31. According to its suggestions only we could work out a way to resolve this issue,” he added.
By Isuri Kaviratne