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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FUTA tells Govt. to keep its promises

Dailymirror 26/07/2011

By Sandun A. Jayasekera

The Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) yesterday asked the government to fulfil without delay the promises made in response to its demands and warned that the university lecturers were not ready to waste any more time waiting for the government to deliver.

FUTA media spokesman Mahim Mendis told a news conference the Association members strongly believed that these demands were vital to a lasting solution to the problems faced by the lecturers and the quality of higher education in the country.

“The FUTA has decided that its membership will accept the voluntary positions relinquished due to ongoing protest on the understanding reached in good faith that the committee appointed by the government will take steps to resolve all their demands within the stipulated timeframe. The FUTA warns it will resume its suspended trade union action if matters are not resolved as promised,” Dr. Mendis stressed.

“After the FUTA met President Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 13, it met Treasury Secretary P. B. Jayasundara on July 18 to discuss, the salary structure in keeping with the President’s proposals and the implementation of the other demands of the FUTA.

At this meeting we were informed that the salary cap of Rs.115,000 for the senior most Professor included a 25 per cent conditional Research and Development allowance,” he said.

Dr. Mendis said FUTA had been firm from the beginning, that to resolve the principal demand for an increase in salaries all allowances should be paid without any conditions attached and in such a scenario FUTA is not in a position to consider this 25 per cent R and D allowance as part of a salary package which in effect caps the salary for a senior most professor at Rs.101,000 and not Rs.115,000 as promised by the President and falls far short of the original FUTA interim demand of Rs.126,000.

“Of a total of about 5,000 academics, there are only less than 50 Senior Professors in the entire University system, just one per cent of all the academics. Having a salary cap of Rs.101,000 for a Senior Professor translates proportionately to only a meager Rs.68,000 for a senior lecturer and Rs.44,000 for a Probationary Lecturer at recruitment. FUTA feels strongly that this is grossly inadequate to effectively address the issues of recruitment and retention of quality academics in the University system,” he said.

Dr. Mendis said of the seven demands put forward in the interim proposal submitted by the FUTA, only three demands have been partially met but these key demands had received no consideration by the government during its negotiations with the FUTA -- Recognizing University Academics as a special category of professionals; signing of an agreement delineating the implementation of the full proposal that includes the demand to increase spending on education at least up to 6 per cent of the GDP, that all allowances be paid without any conditions being attached to them; removal of UGC circular 955 that took away from the academics a privilege that they already enjoyed; FUTA representation be mandatory at all education and higher education related reform processes.