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TU action to continue

2011 May 14

The trade union strike action launched by the university lecturers regarding salary increments and salary anomalies is continuing at the time of writing.6-2
Striking university lecturers have vowed to carry forward the strike action while the Minister of Higher Education S B Dissanayaka insists that the government is unable to grant any salary increments at this point in time. The lecturers are not prepared to back down from their stance; nor is the minister willing to accede to their demand for salary increments.
Trade union action was launched by the University Lecturers Union (ULU) on May 9. As a result, they have voluntarily resigned from their posts with more than 90 per cent of lecturers supporting the trade union action taken by the ULU.

More thantwo-thirds on strike

The President of the ULU Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri said that more than two-thirds of the university lecturers serving in various fields have supported the action taken by them and that the government was in a helpless position as a result. He said that lecturers from Colombo, Peradeniya, Sri Jayewardenepura and the Open universities had fully supported the trade union action instituted by ULU.
However, Vice Chancellor of the North Western University Chandra Embuldeniya said that so far not a single lecturer attached to that university has joined the trade union action launched by ULU.
In the wake of the ULU having warned of taking trade union action, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had issued a circular on May 3, preventing the lecturers from leaving their posts voluntarily.

Academics opinions differ

The head of the UGC Professor Gamini Samaranayaka said that if lecturers were to leave their posts voluntarily, they will need to give at least three months notice (in advance) and if not, it will be illegal and in violation of UGC laws and regulations.
However the head of ULU Dr Devasiri maintains that lecturers have the right to leave their posts as and when they want, and that the circular issued by the UGC was illegal and undemocratic. The UGC has already informed the vice chancellors of the universities to provide them with the names of lecturers who have taken part in the trade union action launched by ULU. The vice chancellors have also promised the UGC to help them in their endeavour.
The ULU avers that due to the trade union action they have taken, the education at universities has been hampered to a great extent. Dr Nirmal Devasiri added that until the government promises to look into their twin demands of salary increments and address anomalies, not a single lecturer will return to their jobs. Minister S B Dissanayaka also vowed that there were already enough lecturers with strong links to the government to replace those who are on strike -- and if those striking do not report within a short time they will be replaced sooner than later.

Serious anomalies

The media spokesman of  ULU Mahim Mendis said that they are not comfortable with the salaries drawn by the lecturers at universities.

He said there were serious anomalies in salaries which the government has clearly failed to look into and unless they are corrected they will not be returning to work any time soon.The ULU has called for the increase of basic salaries of all senior lecturers by Rs 135,000, the second grade of senior lecturers by Rs 88,000, and junior lecturers by Rs 44,000. According to ULU media spokesman Mahim Mendis the facility of obtaining duty free vehicles that a lecturer is entitled to has also been discontinued by the government -- while the minimum tenure for importing a new vehicle has now been extended from five to 12 years.
He added that given this lukewarm treatment of government to the issues raised by ULU, they have had no other alternative but to opt for strike action with the greatest reluctance. He also charged that the government was least interested in listening to the concerns of the university lecturers, and said that the government will have to take the rap for the plight faced by the students as a result of the trade union action.

Toiling in SL for apittance

Minister S B Dissanayaka said that the salaries of all university lecturers have been increased by 36.25 per cent and that there was no case for the government to grant further increments.
However, ULU chief Dr. Nirmal Devasiri said that if the government fails to grant any salary increments shortly, most of the lecturers will be compelled to work overseas rather than toil in Sri Lanka for a pittance.

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