Sri Lanka’s school teachers to return to work on Oct 25 but TU campaign to continue

ECONOMYNEXT – An alliance of school teacher and principal trade unions in Sri Lanka who have been on strike for over three months demanding higher pay said on Monday (18) that they will resume duties next week (25) but will continue to agitate and refrain from non-academic work.

Spokespersons for Ceylon Teachers and Principals Trade Union Alliance told reporters that, however, teachers will not report to work on October 21 and 22 when schools are officially scheduled to reopen after months of closure due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“We ask all principals and teachers to go to schools on October 25 and restart the education process,” President of the Ceylon Teachers and Principals Trade Union Alliance Yalwela Pannasekara thero said.

“But we will not stop our struggle. Even after resuming teaching, we will continue our strike [by not engaging in non-academic work such as overseeing extracurricular activities]. This decision was taken not under pressure but by thinking about our children,” he said.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka are on strike for the 99th day as of Monday, demanding that the government resolve long lasting salary anomalies in the two services.

The government proposed to increase their salaries in a four-year strategy, but upon the rejection of that proposal, the government later proposed to give the increments in two installments. The unions rejected this, too, and continued the strike asking for the salaries to be increased in one go.

For teachers in the lowest grade (3/2), the proposed total increment is 3,750 rupees and for grade 1/3 it is 1,250 rupees, all of which will be implemented next January as per the government’s two step proposal.

“Is this a big enough increment for teachers?” Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin told said.

However, he said, teachers will resume all education activities from October 25 onwards and ask the government to open all schools if possible saying the teachers will report to work.

“We have made a firm decision. We will continue the strike on October 21 and 22. And on October 25, it is we – not the government – who have decided to go to school on our own,” he said.

The government said that, initially, primary schools with a maximum of 200 students between grades 1 to 5 will be opened on October 21, will higher grades will be opened in three steps. The government hopes to open schools for all grades by November.

“Only around 3,000 schools have fewer than 200 students. And for that they need around 10,000 teachers,” said Stalin.

“We will go for our union action with the fourth step being initiated. We have planned a campaign including strikes, protests and parent meetings while continuing the education of children,” he said. (Colombo /Oct 18/2021)

Related: Sri Lanka teachers’ trade unions stick to their guns, continue strike

Sri Lanka teachers’ strike: minister threatens legal action if teachers disrupt school reopening

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