Saturday, October 13, 2012
Suspension of strike only a truce; govt. must honour promises — FUTA
by Dasun Edirisinghe
The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) yesterday said that it had suspended its three-month-long strike, believing that Economic Affair Minister Basil Rajapaksa would keep his word.
Addressing a media conference at the Open University, Nawala, FUTA President Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri said that Minister of Higher Education S. B. Dissanayake should learn from Minister Rajapaksa’s positive intervention.
"Minister Rajapaksa asked me to trust his word and I said we
could trust him," Dr. Dewasiri said, adding that now it was Minister Rajapaksa’s duty to honour his promise.
The final round of talks between Minister Rajapaksa and FUTA was held on Tuesday night after Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera issued the letter regarding salary increments. However, FUTA refrained from attending the joint media conference with the government and did not issue a joint statement on Thursday.
The FUTA membership did not want to participate in the joint media conference and issue a drafted joint statement. However, they could issue a revised joint statement with the consent of the membership, Dr. Dewasiri said.
"Although we did not get anything immediately, the recognition of our demands by the government was our triumph," he said.
The senior academic said that Dr. Jayasundera’s letter had promised to increase salaries in a five-year structure starting from the November budget.
"The FUTA membership is still on the warpath and waiting to see what they will get from the budget," he said.
Dr. Dewasiri said that FUTA’s core demand was the allocation of 6 per cent of the GDP for education and based on that demand the government had approved a Cabinet note as the first step in the negotiations process to increase government expenditure on education.
He said that the Cabinet note was aimed at considering university academic staff a special professional group and establishing a special committee to act on the same, appointing a special presidential commission to make recommendations on reforms relevant to the higher education sector, safeguarding university autonomy and accepting the need to engage in a fruitful dialogue with the university community on reforms related to higher education.
An agreement had also been reached to rescind the circulars obstructing positive activities of the university academic community. Another agreement reached was on obtaining the participation of faculty boards and Senates to determine the nature of the leadership training programme for new students admitted to universities, Dr. Dewasiri said.
"Furthermore, following the discussions FUTA had with the Treasury Chief, both the government and we agreed to honour the written assurance given by him on Tuesday," the FUTA president said.
FUTA Vice President Ven. Dambara Amila Thera said that their suspension of the strike was like a ceasefire while waging a war and they would resume it anytime if the government broke its promises