20 September, 2018

Blog

Challenges For FUTA And Changing Nature Of Social Movements

By Buddhima Padmasiri

Buddhima Padmasiri

FUTA strike…… yes, this started as a trade union action but today it has penetrated the virtual boundaries in which it started, and has evolved to become a social movement in Sri Lanka. What is important about this phenomenon is that in the post-war Sri Lanka it has created a space to believe in peoples’ power: to believe that in present Sri Lanka there is a possibility for people to mobilize in passive resistance against unjust state control; to believe that despite personal gains and agenda’s people are willing to rise for the betterment of the future. This is where FUTA’s trade union action became a social movement. With “6% for education” it has managed to mobilize other trade unions, students and parents to fight with it for its cause.

To this end it has been a people’s movement. But with the rapid growth of this movement political parties too have lent their support to FUTA.

Today the FUTA strike marks two months, three weeks and three days on strike. This   trade union action is remarkable in its achievement of protraction  in post-war Sri Lanka. The university academic staff is on strike and this is the third month the majority of them are going without wages/remuneration. This situation leads to numerous complexities; the question is whether FUTA has the viability to face these emerging complications as they go on.  Like in a conflict with its prolonging, even in social movements there are alternative structures creating which could be for the personal or political gain of individuals or groups, from the ruling party at present or in the aftermath of the trade union action.

At present there is the Patriotic University Teachers’ Alliance (PUTA) which is countering the FUTA action with various claims. This is one of the many obstacles FUTA is challenged with but so far FUTA has faced them well.  But what is clear at this moment is the emergence of a polarization, and quoting a colleague of mine “it is hard when you are at the receiving end”. While  FUTA is getting stronger and larger with the public support they are getting from the outside, it has to look within to retain its members, the university academic staff. On the other hand,  it also needs to ensure equal representation of all groups of academic and ‘academic support’ staff in universities which entail the  instructors of English in the Arts faculties, demonstrators in the Science faculties and even the staff at similar capacities working in agricultural faculties etc. in their trade union action. Another reason for this is that at the present members of FUTA are not paid their salaries while the members of PUTA are.

FUTA also needs to be concerned about the changing nature of the social movement. The “6% of GDP for education” started off as a people’s movement initiated by FUTA. As it is a trade union it could also be identified in the broader context of the civil society movement as well as with the backing received from other civil societies. Not just the local academia, international scholars too have sent their support to FUTA. Civil society human rights organizations joined, along with other trade unions and have been supporting FUTA. To this end it has been a people’s movement. But with the rapid growth of this movement political parties too have lent their support to FUTA. This is a changing nature of the social movement which could raise challenges for FUTA. Even at the moment FUTA and its trade union action have been criticised by the pro-government academics as an attempt to destabilize the country with economic agendas of their own. With this new change one can predict that this lashing against FUTA will get worse in both amount and gravity. Also with the successes FUTA has obtained and with the government not being able to curtail this trade union action this is again predictable. Other than that, with the political parties volunteering support to the trade union action initiated by it, FUTA should be vigilant to not let those political parties use it and its activism for their political gain which could jeopardise the success of its action.

If we look at the current education system, it is a crisis on its own from the issue of the Grade Five scholarship exam- the Z-score to the curricula and the administration of the universities. This has mainly been a result of excessive politicising of the system. If 6% from the GDP is allocated to education and afterwards, if the same system is continued then that is a disappointment and an injustice for the future generations. So the 6% hike of allocation for education shouldn’t be FUTA’s ultimate goal, but its primary goal. If they manage to achieve this objective, there onwards they should start to change the education system in a proactive and beneficial way. If they continue to do it no-doubt FUTA will continue to obtain the backing of the public.

Other than these there is one more thing and that goes to the rest of the civil society. The civil society at large should take FUTA as an example in co-ordinating and initiating its activities. It should learn from FUTA on how to mobilize people and on how to pressurize the government to meet its demands. FUTA has attracted people to it and has also obtained legitimacy from the people. FUTA is more co-ordinated, in its trade union action and in its articulation of demands. It is because of this that FUTA has gone beyond UNIONISM to become a SOCIAL MOVEMENT.

*Buddhima Padmasiri- An Independent Researcher, Human Rights Activist and an Attorney-at-Law

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Both Patriotic University Teachers’ Alliance (PUTA) and FUTA are not doing their jobs well. Trade unions can not dictate terms to the government. Goverment should know heigher education needs more funds for develop quality of education and research. Government will increase allocation post war era. Sri Lanka needs independent consultant for advicing about heigher education developement in Sri Lanka. Government should invite Prof. Abdul Rahamen of Pakistan. He has good experience both university and ministerial level.

    • 0
      0

      WE DONT NEED ANY CAMELS OR DONKEYS FROM PAKISTAN OR BALUCHISTAN TO SOLVE OUR EDUCATION PROBLEMS.
      IF YOU WANT, YOU CAN INVITE THEM TO SOLVE YOUR PERSONAL PROBLEMS.
      WHO ARE THOSE HALF BAKED CONSULTANTS.
      THOSE DONKEY FXXXRS CANNOT SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS.
      BE REALISTIC AND UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT ARE THE ROOTS, CAUSES.
      THEN ANALYZE TO GIVE DIRECTIONS.

      AS YOU SAID “Trade unions can not dictate terms to the government” but people can dictate any thing to any government.

      THIS SO CALLED PEOPLE’S ELECTED MAHINDA’S MISGOVERNMENT IS NOT A SRI LANKAN’S VOTED AND ELECTED GOVERNMENT.

      IT IS A SELF APPOINTED DICTATORIAL MISGOVERNMENT. SO WE HAVE VERY POSSIBLE RIGHTS TO DEFEND, OBJECT , PROTEST OR DEMAND TO DO RIGHT THINGS FROM THIS DICTATORIAL GOVERNMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE AND FUTURE GENERATIONS.

  • 0
    0

    Indeed FUTA is morphing into a social movement for regime change due to the stupidity and arrogance of the Rajapakse Brothers an the militarization of Lanka.
    the godaya from Hambantota Rajapakse today is swollen with super luxury living after looting public resources and has lost his head. Hid ego needs to be pricked and he will burst like the bubble economy his corrupt cronies have created in Lanka today. Rajapakse supporters were at the T-20 cricket match where the BMWs and Audis line up and the rich are entertained at the expense of the poor in Lanka even — as the FUTA marched to Hyde Park.
    FUTA must seek to broaden its social base — speak to university alumnai who benefited from the education system and get them to join the broader FUTA campaign for a DEVELOPMENT POLICY CHANGE.

  • 0
    0

    2 students were killed by the regime as the protest was poised to reach Colombo. Recall that tow students dissappeared in Jaffna when organizing a protest there. Gota the White Van goon must be held accountable.
    What happened was not an accident – the regime is murderous and becoming desperate even as the bread and circuses continue with endless cricket matches and sports tamashas to distract people from the real situation of debt and poverty in the cournty..

  • 0
    0

    CONGRATULATION FUTA! Great job so far and FUTA will go from strength to strength, given the actions of the bunch of criminals morons setting policy in Lanka under a singularly UNEDUCATED family dictatorship.
    FUTA should however broaden its 1) demands, and 2) social base.
    FUTA must articulate the demand that all educated Sri Lankans have at this time –
    1. the demand for GOOD GOVERNANCE AND DEVELOPMENT POLICY CHANGE. The University Economists have been abysmally silent on the wrong economic development policy directions takes by the regime and need to do a better job on this by generating public debate on the corrupt Rajapakse economic development policies which are indebting and impoverishing the middle class to subsidize the rich..

    2. FUTA needs to develop an EDUCATION WHITE PAPER on up grading Higher education. The economist and social scientist must work together while they can during strike to formulate a comprehensive WHITE PAPER on how an increase in budget would be utilized to better facilities and infrastructure for research, students etc.

    3. End to militarization, state criminality and military capital expenditure cut back and diverted to education sector.

  • 0
    0

    Social movements must attempt to incorporate all issues that impact on the people and the future generations of Sri Lanka. Many socio-political phenomena are connected, stem from similar sources and are fed by the same fuels.

    However, the public may not see these connections and the nexus of the phenomena may not be apparent. It is therefore the responsibility of social activists like the writer, to broaden issues beyond “primary goals” if they hope to achieve popular social endorsement.

  • 0
    0

    “…they should start to change the education system in a proactive and beneficial way”.

    As of now, with one notable exception, I have no indication of anyone in FUTA being aware of the need to change the education system or of the fact that the critical situation that we face within the country in relation to the worship of authoritarianism we are saddled with, or globally in relation to Rapid Resource Depletion (RRD), Pollution and Global Climate Change (P&GCC), Global Monetary Collapse (GMC) and the Growth Model of Development (GMD) is related to the kind of products that the education system has been churning out year in and year out.

    I also have not met anyone in FUTA who has shown me any kind of clue as to what the 3.6 billion USD that constitutes the 6% of GDP is going to be used for. None of them has asked me what I would like to see this money used for either. So I am not sure that FUTA has any clue as to where it is heading or whether it wants my support for its agenda, whatever that may be. 6% of GDP to produce more authoritarianism, more dictators and more dictator worshippers would be a disaster given that we need to be producing people who have the skills and willingness to engage the critical issues of our times and transform our global civilization into a sustainable one if we wish the human species to survive.

    If FUTA wants my support then it had better start talking and it better come clean as to what it hopes to achieve.

    So as of now (this may of course change) I do not think that the rest of civil society can take FUTA as an example until FUTA learns to be transparent about its objectives, and in the first place to ensure that it has clear and comprehensive objectives to be transparent about since this at the moment does not appear to be certain. Remember that FUTA is made up if the most advanced human resources that we have and if these advanced human resources cannot formulate and initiate a comprehensive transformative initiative…then what can we expect from clumsy and authoritarian hierarchical pyramids like the state?

  • 0
    0

    It is started as a trade unon action and now it is use to display of bankrupt political parties and INGO’s conspiracy to overthrow this government. What government need to do now is let all universities work indpendently and allow to manage by FUTA and IUSF. Then students can get their education by paying money like how they do in UK,USA and Europe.

  • 0
    0

    These things happen when people vote for uneducated donkeys.
    The total of the regime adorned by illiterate thugs including
    the so called king. And the Fu.. king is surrounded by naked
    Andares and fatherless idiots. Hail the fu….king.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.