FUTA Pledges To Continue Strike
By Dinidu de Alwis
The Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) on Friday pledged to continue their strike, in the face of a possible impasse with the government as the President refused to engage with the academics until union action comes to a halt. “This is not something that was started over night – we have been communicating our grievances to the President since April this year,” said Dr. Mahim Mendis, spokesperson for FUTA.
Mendis was responding to a statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who said that finding solutions for the academics’ demands would be impossible at this stage, with the 2013 budget scheduled to be unveiled in November.
Sri Lanka’s academic staff have been on strike for nearly three months, calling for higher wages and a governmental pledge of spending an allocation equal to 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product on the education sector.
Sri Lanka’s education spending is the lowest in the South Asia region.
Union action and FUTA’s call for increased spending in education has been gaining momentum, with 40 trade unions from different sectors pledging their support in a media conference held on Thursday. “Some of these unions are pro-Government unions, but have come on board because of the need for increased spending on education,” Mendis said.
FUTA also criticised police action on Thursday, where riot control officers used water cannons to disperse a small, non-violent protest by university students outside the University Grants Commission. Mendis termed the move a “Fascist act” by the government, and stated that the government should “stop terrorizing” students and activists in the island.