lecturers’ agitation continues over salary issue
By Arthur Wamanan
The Higher Education sector is yet again faced with
an obstacle, this time due to the agitation of the
university lecturers to increase their salaries to a
With the token strike by the university teachers a
couple of weeks ago not yielding any results, the
lecturers have planned to take alternative measures
to press the government to increase their pay.
The issue is likely to take another turn with the
teachers planning to call for the intervention of
the President to solve the problem.
The Federation of University Teachers Association
(FUTA) which had met last Monday (21) had discussed
on further actions that could be taken to press the
government to increase their salaries to an
The university teachers had been discussing with the
government on their salary system and had requested
for an increase. The teachers claim that the
government had agreed to adhere to their demands and
revise the salary system of the lecturers.
The salary issue of the university lecturers was
taken up just before the budget last year and the
Higher Education Minister himself agreed that the
salaries of the lecturers needed to be increased.
The friction between the lecturers and the Higher
Education authorities intensified further when the
latter increased their pay by a mere 36.25%.
The lecturers came down heavily on the government
and refused to accept the revised salary system.
President of FUTA and Head of the Department of
History and International Relations at the
University of Colombo, Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri
said the teachers had decided to write to President
Mahinda Rajapaksa for his intervention on the
matter. In addition, they had also planned to step
down from the administrative level.
“We had planned on these two steps during the
meeting. We will be writing to the President within
the next few days. At the same time, we have also
planned to step down from the administrative level
if the issue is not addressed,” he said.
The government in July last year said that it
would increase the salary of a senior lecturer to
Rs. 200,000 from Rs. 57, 775. Higher Education
Minister, S. B. Dissanayake had reportedly stated
this in Parliament when responding to a question by
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) parliamentarian,
Anura Kumara Dissanayake on revising the salary
scales of university lecturers.
The Minister had reportedly said the government
intended to increase the salaries of junior
lecturers in the lowest grade from Rs. 20,750 to Rs.
72,000 and the basic salary of Senior Professor from
Rs. 57,755 to Rs. 200,000.
Dr. Devasiri pointed out that the salary paid to the
lecturers were not on par with many other countries.
“Our standards are very much higher than many other
countries. But, we are getting paid less than in
Bangladesh,” Dr. Devasiri added.
Teaching has been accepted as one of the noble
professions in the world and it is plays an even
more important role in the universities in creating
professionals belonging to various fields.
The higher education sector has been seeing several
protests in the recent past. But every one of them
had been staged by the students of the various
national universities and nothing by the lecturers.
Universities are the nerve centres of the society
where professionals are created from various
sectors. Therefore, it is very important that the
education process at this most important phase of
their lives should not be disrupted.
Meanwhile, another member of the FUTA and the Dean
of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at
the Open University, Dr. Mahim Mendis defends the
actions of the lecturers stating that they should be
given a dignified salary that would encourage them
to remain in this field.
“The university is the place where doctors,
engineers, lawyers and other professionals are
created. It is the nerve centre of the country.
Therefore, it is important that the lecturers are
given their due respect and treated properly,” he
Being a Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences
and Humanities, Dr. Mendis points out that the
lecturers have been deprived of their due
recognition. He also stressed the importance of
having a proper salary structure in order to
Although the token strike by the university teachers
two weeks ago would have come as a surprise to many,
Dr. Mendis points out that it was not a sudden move
by them and that they had been demanding for a
dignified salary package for the teachers for quite
He said FUTA has met the government officials on
quite a few occasions and say that their meetings
had not yielded any results.
The government however states that it had taken
action by increasing their salaries by 36.25%.
While the lecturers had come out hard against the
Ministry, the latter denies the allegations levelled
against them and states that the move by the
university teachers to demand for a salary hike was
Secretary of the Higher Education Ministry, Dr.
Sunil Jayantha Navaratne told The Nation that the
government had taken this step to increase their
salaries on the directive of President Mahinda
Dr. Navaratne admitted that the university lecturers
had met with them on this issue. “We met with them
and decided to increase their salary. The President
has decided to increase their pay by 36.25% while
the other public sector employees are getting a 265%
increase. This shows that the President has given
importance to them more than the others. They also
should not compare their salaries with those in
western countries,” he said.
According to the revised salary format, they would
get 25% increase of their academic allowance. In
addition, the lecturers would be getting a 25%
research allowance. However, the second allowance
would be given if they had conducted any research on
their respective fields, according to the Higher
Education Ministry Secretary.
Dr. Navaratne said the salaries of the lecturers
ranged from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 80,000 depending on
their seniority and qualifications.
Dr. Mendis however said the increase was not
enough. “According to the present salary increase,
the most senior professor is getting Rs. 3,600 in
addition to his salary of Rs, 46,000,” he said.
He said that there was no circular mentioning the
Research allowance until they announced the token
strike on February 28. “That too was shabbily
“We are not saying that other public sector
employees are not important. But, we want a
dignified salary. This profession should be
He pointed out that the Higher Education Minister
S.B. Dissanayake himself had once stated that the
take home salaries should be increased to Rs.
200,000. “It is recorded in the hansard.”
Despite the professors coming out against the
authorities on their salary issue, the government
seems to be firm on their stand and a salary
increase seems distant. Dr. Navaratne has said that
the government had taken the best step forward to
address the issue and there was no reason for the
professors to be agitated.
On whether the lecturers had requested for another
meeting with the government officials, Dr. Navaratne
said there had been no official request after the