Talks to end teachers dispute fail
[TamilNet, Monday, 26 July 1999, 14:50 GMT]
A conference convened to resolve the Northeast province teachers' protest against what they see as a discriminatory pay dispute failed when the Northeast Provincial Council Governor, Major General Asoka Jayawardene, said that he had no authority to change the Education Minister's decision regarding the settlement of arrears pay.
The Tamil and Muslim teachers are protesting against the Education Minister's decision to use a Rs.150 million treasury allowance to pay salary and risk allowance arrears for Sinhala teachers in the Ampara zone in full and then share out the remaining money between Tamil and Muslim teachers.
After about five hours of picketing by hundreds of teachers that completely paralysed the functions of the provincial offices of the Ministry of Education and Treasury department in Trincomalee, the Governor convened the conference to settle the dispute.
The following representatives of the seven trade unions attended the conference:
T.Mahasivam, general secretary of Ceylon Tamil Teachers' Union; S.Selvanayagam of the North East Province Tamil Teachers Alliance; S.Kithsri, Secretary of the North East Common Teachers' Union; S.Sebaretnam of the Trincomalee District Principals' Association; N.Thiruchelvam, Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers' Congress; M. Mohamed Ali of the Islamic Teachers Association and S.Saverimutu of the Trincomalee Graduate Teachers' Union.
The conference was also attended by the Superintendent of Police, Pathmasiri Pathirana, and the Secretary of Provincial Ministry of Education, Sundaram Divakalala.
The Governor briefed the conference of the initiatives he had taken to resolve the problem. He said that a decision had been taken at a conference presided by the Central Minister of Education to pay Amparai zone teachers in full. Accordingly money had been sent to the Amparai zone and teachers there will be paid risk allowances for 12 months in 1998 and the principals will be paid their salary arrears for 1995.
To placate the teachers, Major General Asoka Jayawardene said that he had now decided to pay seven months risk allowance and three months salary allowance to teachers and principals in other zones. He was unable, however, to meet a request from the teachers that the payment to teachers in Amparai be delayed until a settlement was found with the Minister of Education.
The trade unions' representatives told the governor that they were not in a position to accept any formula other than equal treatment with the teachers and principals in the Amparai zone.
Following the breakdown of the conference Mr.T.Mahasivam of the CTTU announced that picketing would be extended to other zonal education offices in the Northeast province from Tuesday, 27 July.