The Federation of University Associations (FUTA) observes with dismay the deepening crisis of the teacher-principal trade union struggle. As a fellow education sector trade union, we extend our unconditional support to the just demands of teachers and principals and call upon the government to intervene in good faith and offer a just resolution to this issue that has now dragged on for over 90 days and threatens to jeopardize the entire primary and secondary education sectors of the country. At the moment the government is attempting to undermine the teacher-principal struggle through strong-arm tactics and insincere mediations by disingenuous third parties. We are appalled at the comments made by the Public Security Minister essentially threatening teachers and principals engaged in a democratic struggle to win their just demands. This particular minister seems to have scant regard for democratic norms and appears to believe that Public Security equates to the use of sledgehammer tactics to force people to conform. He is a prime example of the kind of pedantic thinking and behavior created by the lack of a robust education. This is precisely why we need significant investment to safeguard and develop the education system of this country.
We also observe with grave disappointment how the government is using insincere third-party mediators who are attempting to dilute and undermine the teacher-principal struggle. Essentially the government’s approach seems to be a good-cop bad-cop routine with dishonest discussion on one end and the use of threats and intimidation on the other end when the teacher-principals unions refuse to buy into the half-baked solutions on offer. We remind the government that a very similar situation arose during the 2012 FUTA struggle. What FUTA sought through the ‘six percent’ demand was that universities could recruit and retain the right talent and at the same time create the conditions for uplifting the entire education sector. If the government takes a short-sighted view of the current struggle by teachers and principals and attempts to quash it without offering a decent and acceptable solution, it will sound the death-knell for Sri Lanka’s proud history of public education. This is a government that came to power promising ‘vistas of prosperity’ and public servants, including teachers backed this government believing they would be treated with dignity and respect. It is, therefore, incumbent upon this government to respond with sensitivity and understanding to a historic trade union struggle that almost every segment of Sri Lankan society recognizes as just. We call upon the government to immediately cease from trying to threaten and trick teachers and principals and enter into a productive negotiation and offer a just and equitable solution to their long-standing professional demands.