FUTA suspends university strike

by Dasun Edirisinghe

The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) said yesterday that its strike had been suspended.

However, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday told the media the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) had given them an assurance that their strike would be called off immediately in response to Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera’s letter.

Addressing a fully-packed media conference at his ministry, Minister Rajapaksa said, "Although FUTA members are not attending the joint media conference, they have informed us that their executive committee had decided to call off the strike."

Rajapaksa said that FUTA had informed the government that their membership had not endorsed a joint media conference and a joint media statement.

"However, they asked us whether we could postpone this pre-scheduled media conference," the Minister said.

The minister said that the government had assured the strikers that it would provide what it could according to the proposals submitted by the university teachers. The FUTA representatives had agreed with the government’s assurances, Rajapaksa said.

Answering a query, Rajapaksa said that the government shared the responsibility with university teachers for the protraction of the strike.

He said that the government had not undertaken to allocate 6 per cent of the GDP for education, but assured that it would allocate the highest amount possible for that sector.

"When we allocate a bigger amount to education we might have to reduce funds for other sectors, including my ministry," a smiling Rajapaksa said.

He said that his ministry had received Rs. 107 billion last time, but this time around it had been reduced to Rs. 80 billion.

Rajapaksa warned university teachers that they would have to do extra work to clear the three-month workload as two batches of students were awaiting university entrance.

Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake, Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne, University Grants Commission Chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake, Secretary to the Media Ministry Dr. Charitha Herath, UGC members, several vice chancellors and academics also participated in the media conference.

Meanwhile, FUTA Media Spokesman Dr. Mahim Mendis told The Island that his association had decided to suspend its trade union action. He said the teachers were not satisfied with the salary structure proposed by Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera. FUTA expected an immediate solution to its salary issue from the next budget to be presented in November, he said.

Dr. Mendis said FUTA’s core demand––allocation of 6 per cent of the GDP for education––had not been properly addressed but FUTA had decided to suspend the strike in the public interest.

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