Non-academic strike paralyses universities

Examinations affected

By Dasun Edirisinghe

The academic activities including examinations at all universities countrywide were disrupted yesterday due to the strike launched by their non-academic and administrative staff on Wednesday.

As a result examinations in several universities were postponed and all lectures cancelled as buildings remained closed.

President of the Inter-University Trade Union Joint Committee Edward Malwattage told The Island that they would continue the strike as there had been no response from the higher education authorities until last evening.

He said they had not yet extended the strike to water supplies, security and animal farms in some universities, but they would have to cripple those sectors, too, from tomorrow if the government did not respond positively.

Malwattage said their main demand was the rectification of anomalies as regards incentives, a pension scheme for university non-academic staff and payment of arrears of their incentives.

Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella h ad, three months ago, promised to resolve the problem within two weeks when they met him after a protest opposite the ministry, but he had not honoured his pledge, he said.

"Minister Kiriella as well as the State Minister of Higher Education Mohan Lal Grero took us for a ride during the past few months but this time we will show our strength to the new government by this strike," Malwattage said, noting that universities could not function without them.

He said more than 13,000 members of the non-academic and administrative staff had joined the strike and teacher unions, too , had pledged their support.

Malwattage said the government tried to depict their strike as a politically motivated one, but it was not true.

"Members attached to all political parties including the UNP, the SLFP and the JVP are within the ranks of strikers."

Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof. Mohan de Silva was not available for comment as he was overseas.

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