| A statement issued by the FUTA
( March 27, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) has decided to resume its trade union action in opposition to the lack of interest of the present government in working together with the university academic community in the country to develop a higher education policy that would serve the interests of the nation. The government policy and attitudes on state funded University education is despicable as apparent from its 2012 budget allocation, the ill conceived higher education reform proposals, the lack of interest in improving the human and physical resources, the various attempts by the Minster of Higher Education to undermine the system and the politicization of the system to such an extent where the Minister is seen to play an increasingly interfering role in all affairs including the most mundane of its affairs, and most important of all, the government’s move to substitute an education that would at its best produce mere technocrats to one that would produce scientists, artists, social scientists, intellectuals and thinkers who can serve the nation.
Following the agreement between the FUTA and Ministry of Finance at the time of the suspension of the TUA in 21st July 2011, there have been a plethora of meetings with the, Salaries and Cadre Commission, and Ministry of Finance towards the fulfillment of the rest of the FUTA demands as outlined in its interim proposal handed over to the MOHE on 7th July 2011. However none of the demands have been, even partially, met. Recommendations made and the discussions that began with the Ministry of Finance have come full circle, after passing through the UGC and Salaries and Cadre Commission to the Ministry of Finance without any progress what so ever. The FUTA strongly condemns these deliberate, reprehensible and dilatory tactics.
In this context it seems clear that the existence and well being of the entire state funded Higher education system is in jeopardy. Thus the FUTA has decided to revert to stern action in order to safeguard the state Universities of the country. Specifically the FUTA will embark on strong island wide trade union action, beginning on the 26th of April 2012 with a token strike and a public protest campaign in Colombo on the 26th demanding the following:
1. Delineate a course of action to increase government spending on education that will reach 6% of GDP within the next 2 years.
2. Suspend all existing higher education reform processes until a proper consultative process involving all stakeholders and the public has taken place.
3. Take immediate steps to improve the physical and human resources of the state funded University system.
3.1. One of the difficulties faced by the state Universities in recruiting and retaining high quality academic staff is the poor financial incentives offered by the state Universities. Thus we demand the immediate implementation of the remuneration steps outlined in the interim proposal of 7th July 2011 with steps that should have been implemented in the 2012 budget settled without arrears.
3.2. In order to facilitate the demand outlined above the FUTA suggests that the academics be considered as a special category of service personnel, based on the crucial role they have in developing the country’s human resource capability and the stringent recruitment and promotion scheme that they have to follow.
FUTA has also decided to appoint a committee consisting of senior academics to look into matters related to the enhancement of the quality of University teachers. This decision was taken as FUTA strongly believe that the improvement of the quality of university academics is the most important prerequisite in facing present challenges for the public university system in Sri Lanka.