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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let us pick up the pieces and move forward stronger than ever

UTeachers 24/07/2011

By I. M. S. Sathyaprasad, EFTU, Peradeniya

Certain things come to my mind immediately when we talk of regrouping. I just note them here so that others can think about them and come up with better ideas and improvements.

  1. We have to look at our initial demands again and when we make a public statement on the settlement (temporary suspension of TUA) we need to inform the public where they stand as of now; especially, our demand for increasing the percentage allocation from GDP on education, which earned us most of the public support.
  2. Hereafter, if we ever engage in TUA on salary issues again, we have to use the salaries of recruitment level lecturers and senior lecturers who return after post-graduate (and not that of Senior Professors) as the benchmark, in all communications, public statements and other documentation. Having to follow the order of rows in Jiffrey - Malik table is just a funny and lame excuse.
  3. We need to devise a reasonably-efficient and transparent mechanism for the decision-making process of FUTA. This has to be followed always. We need to decide which decisions can be made by FUTA ex-co alone, which at the sister union level and which at the individual member level.
  4. We are a very diverse group professionally as we belong to different professions reflected in the outside industry with a wide spectrum of characteristics. In order to maintain the unity, each sister union must understand what is common to all of us in FUTA and what is not. I personally feel that it is perfectly okay to have many other federations of unions to fight for profession-specific or university-specific issues that are not common to every sister union of FUTA. But within FUTA we all need to respect everyone equally and fight for common issues. I have noted with regret that certain individuals have expressed views that are detrimental to the unity, such as 'we would have been better off if we fought for the issues of our profession alone'. One needs to understand that the strength lies in magnitude. You can improve homogeneity only at the expense of the strength.
  5. We have many areas to patch. This slack time after the TUA may be the best time for that. We need to initiate dialogues with faculties / universities where trade unions do not exist, exist but not participating in FUTA etc. By the time another TUA comes, we need to have a well-knit set of unions. It is very important to be flexible, tolerant and understanding in this process. We need to keep in mind that we are trying to win people who are not with us today.
  6. We need to come up with a system in which we can meet regularly, if possible whole membership, and exchange views. FUTA Ex-Cos (with the participation of all sister unions) have to be held at least quarterly. It is a good idea to encourage every university to have a federation of teacher unions. FUTA has to encourage timely registration of all unions at the Labour Secretariat.
  7. We have to understand, at least now, that we are a part of this society and we have a responsibility to be sensitive to the problems of the society. FUTA needs to maintain her apolitical stand always, under whatever circumstances. But that does not mean that we need to be deaf and blind to what happens around us. We need to be able to at least release a press statement when a nationally important issue is taking place or when another friendly union is in distress. I like to acknowledge thankfully here the moral support given by some teacher unions and student movements during our TUA.
  8. We need to have regular meetings with UGC, MoHE, and CVCD to clarify issues pertaining to our profession. It is a good idea to encourage every university-level federations to meet their respective VCs regularly. All unresolved issues at university level must be informed to FUTA regularly.
  9. The forums, FB groups, and blogs that sprang up during the TUA must continue. We need to exchange views among general membership covering all academics in SL as a continuous activity.
  10. Although we could not go where we wanted to go exactly, this TUA has many positives, most of all, establishing unity among us and making FUTA a living union. I do not think we lost everything. We are in a stronger position than where we were before 9th May. Let's continue from here. We can do it, if we couldn't no one would! :)
You can write your comments to the author by emailing imssatya at gmail.com or by emailing the blog editor - uteachers.sl at gmail.com