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University dispute: dons up the ante

University teachers who staged a token strike on Jan. 18 against proposed private university bill and salary issues, now demand a discussion forum on the higher education reforms among the academics.President of the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri told The Island that there had been no response from the government to their token strike but they had an earlier planned meeting with Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake on Friday.

“At the meeting the minister and his officials agreed to a discussion forum on the higher education bill,” he said adding however that the minister had not positively responded to their demand for abolishing the proposed bill.

Dr. Devasiri said that the FUTA had demanded the abolition of the bill and they would be ready to resort to trade union action if the government moved to push it through Parliament.

Minister Dissanayake had insisted at the Friday’s discussion that the government had yet to finalise the bill, but FUTA could not believe the minister’s statement, Dr. Devasiri said.

The FUTAchief said that his association would decide on the nature of the trade union action at a future executive committee meeting,

FUTA temporarily suspended its trade union action in July 2011 on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s promise to increase university teachers’ salaries fro Budget 2012.

FUTA demands the abolition of the private university bill, a salary hike, allocation of 6% of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) to the education sector among other things.

When contacted by The Island, Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne said that the government had had a wide ranging discussion and all parties had agreed to sort out the problems through consensus.

He said that the next meeting would be held in this regard shortly.
January 22, 2012/ by Dasun Edirisinghe


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