University academics, who are unhappy over the government’s failure to honour the pledge to increase their salaries to a mutually agreed level in the 2012 Budget are once again mulling over the idea of resorting to trade union action to win their demands.
The Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) President Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri said today FUTA members were thoroughly disappointed over the government’s failure to honour the July 21 agreement.
Dr. Devasiri said university academics were entitled to a 20 per cent basic pay rise in the Budget as agreed between the FUTA and the government. But only a five per cent salary increase has been mentioned in the budget. But it is not clear as to whether the increase is on the basic salary or the consolidated salary.
He said the July 2010 agreement states that the salaries of university academic staff should be raised in four stages –bringing the consolidated salary of a senior professor to Rs.168,000 a month.
Dr. Devasiri said the first stage was given in the 2011 budget but even that has many grey areas. Nobody is sure whether the five per cent salary increase for public servants comes as an allowance or an increase to the basic salary.
“We have agitating for a considerable salary increase for a long time for university academics based on their service to the nation, professionalism and academic qualifications which is the norm followed by other countries when the payment of university academics’ salaries are concerned. The Sri Lankan university academics are the lowest paid when compared with those in other countries in the region,” Dr. Devasiri said.
He said after several rounds of discussions with the Higher Education Minister and his officials, Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundara, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and UGC officials followed up with trade union action, the FUTA was able to arrive at a compromise with the government and signed the agreement with the main objective of increasing the salaries of university academics in four stages.
Dr. Devasiri said the FUTA Executive Committee would meet tomorrow to discuss the issue and the future course of action including the option to take trade union action. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)