University lecturers continue their struggle for a pay hike for the third week and threaten trade union action that may affect GCE Advanced Level exams’ evaluation process, if higher education authorities overlook their demands.
Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, President, Federation of University Teachers' Association (FUTA) and head of History & International Relations Department, Colombo University, said that, though Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake assured that President Rajapaksa will meet members of the FUTA to discuss their salary issues, the association has yet to receive an official invitation for the meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
“If a solution is not found, we may withdraw from the evaluation of the GCE Advanced Level examination, which will affect the most significant exam in the higher education sector,” he said.
Last week, professors and senior lecturers of Colombo, Peradeniya, Jaffna, Ruhuna, Rajarata and Sabaragamuwa universities resigned from their voluntary positions, including head of department, unit and programme coordinator and academic hostel warden posts.
A head of department receives Rs 1,000 per month, while a unit coordinator and hostel warden receives Rs 500 per month. Most senior lecturers hold these posts not for financial benefit, but because it adds points to their application for professorship or promotion.
“Sri Lanka’s lecturers receive the lowest salaries compared with lecturers in the region. Basic salary of a senior professor now is Rs. 57,755, while the basic salary of a senior lecturer Grade II is Rs. 37,650. A lecturer (probationary) receives a basic salary of Rs. 26,900,” he said.
According to him, the first proposal for an increment was submitted by a special committee of the University Grants Commission to the National Salaries & Cadres Commission in 2008. It was recommended that a professor receive a basic salary of Rs. 168,750, a senior lecturer be paid a basic salary of Rs. 110,000, and probationary lecturers Rs 55,000.
Dr. Dewasiri said that, before the 1970s, university lecturers received the highest salaries among government employees.
He said that the 36.25% salary increase this year, comprises a 5% general increase on the basic salary of all government employees, a 6.25% increase for academic work, and a 25% increase for research.
“In 2006, the academic allowance was reduced by 5%. This year, it was increased by 6.25%. We got only a 1.25% increase,” he said. Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil J. Nawaratne, said that resigning from voluntary posts will not hinder academic work.
“President Rajapaksa will discuss the salary issue with university lecturers and bring about a solution,” he said.