29 October, 2020

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The Story FUTA Does Not Tell

By Deepal Warnakulasuriya and Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) appears to have put its own grievances to the proverbial backburner focusing instead on getting the Government to set aside 6% of the GDP for the education sector.  Indeed, FUTA has claimed that even if the salary issue is resolved, the larger issue of budgetary allocation will not be dropped.  The selflessness is laudable, even though the demand comes as a surprise since FUTA has seldom taken a stand on national issues and since it counts among its members those who have vociferously advocated privatization and cheered the IMF’s structural adjustment conditionalities over the years.

While it is hoped that FUTA’s discussion with high ranking members of the political leadership will bring about resolution, it is not out of place to consider some numbers which might indicate why FUTA’s salary-flag is less colourful than its 6% banner.

The entry level (Lecturer-Probation) basic salary stands at Rs. 26,900, which is higher than in any other state institution apart from the Central Bank any money-making institutions such as banks.  A senior Professor earns a basic salary of Rs. 57,755.  After adding research allowances and factoring in the increase that will come into effect in October, the first category will earn Rs. 55,775 while the latter’s ‘take home’ will reach Rs. 140,721.  The raise is therefore between 3.25% and 16.18% (for the basic salary) and between 36%.64% and 73.88% for the total ‘take home’.  To bring perspective to the equation, the Chief Justice’s salary is Rs. 70,000 while ministry secretaries get a paltry Rs. 44,000.

There are other benefits.  Senior Lecturers and those in higher categories get sabbatical leave once every seven years.  The state pays their airfare and those of their spouses as well, if they take up a position in a foreign country.  During this time, they continue to receive their salaries.  Some are known to receive salaries from other Sri Lankan universities (where they ‘spend’ their Sabbatical), drawing two government salaries.  Those who go abroad for post graduate studies also have their airfare paid by the state which receiving 2 to 3 years or more paid leave depending on the degree.  The University Grants Commission (UGC), moreover, has a special program to help meet transportation costs and pay registration fees of academics going abroad for conference.

Academics don’t get overtime (OT) payments, true.  They don’t have a 40-hour teaching schedule, the expectation being that apart from the few hours they do teach, they have to read, prepare lectures and engage in research.  FUTA might do their cause a big favor by detailing the number of serious and internationally recognized research publications of its entire membership.  FUTA could also reveal how many of its members teach external students in various tuition classes all over the island and how much is earned on average.  FUTA can go public with the fact that academics get permits to import vehicles duty-free every five years.   This amounts to a jackpot of a million or more every five years.

It is also strange that FUTA has been silent about other sources of income such as paper-setting, paper-marking and conducting examinations.  Nowhere in the world are university lecturers paid for correcting answer scripts of their own students, but here in Sri Lanka they get paid Rs. 100 per answer script (up from Rs 20 not too long ago) of internal students and Rs. 150 of external students

Despite all this, FUTA spokespersons talk as though they are the guardians of public education and try to make out that they are an impoverished lot.  Among the demands articulated is one where the state is asked to spend on the education of at least 2 children of each academic, whether it be in a private school or an international school.

It is par for the course for trade unionists to suppress the embarrassing.  The government cannot point fingers at FUTA given all its own negatives including wastage, poor governance, corruption etc.  FUTA can and must do better than being a pot calling a kettle black, for the degree of soot will not matter, the reality of soot will.   Given its deliberate suppression of relevant facts, FUTA is operating like a third rate trade union and not like a body made of academics with integrity.  This is perhaps why FUTA waves the 6% flag, which itself is strange given that the universities return sizable chunks of unused funds allocated for development.

Sri Lanka has more than a handful of world class academics in most disciplines.  They are intellectually honest, committed to their chosen vocation and typically don’t gripe about hardships that are laughable compared with the travails suffered by large sections of the citizenry.  FUTA is an affront to such dedicated men and women of science.

The Nation

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    MS’s attack is entirely focussed on the FUTA. OK, be that as it may, and I too will be interested in reading the FUTA’s response.

    The point I have been pressing for a long time (from long before
    the privatisation issue came to a boil) is that Lanka’s state universities are being run down, academic excellence, the life blood of a university, is withering, and the government is more to blame for this state of affairs than other stakeholders.

    MS is silent on this matter (apart from doubting the FUTA’s sincerity); so I am entitled to conclude that he agrees with the above para.

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      You grant this joker MS too much – what a pathetic attempt to defend the rapacious Rajapakse regime and its clownish ministers who are ruining education!
      1. An allowance is not a salary and should not be counted as such. It can be taken away at any time. All Universities have similar teaching loads for lecturers – because teaching entails hours of reading, research, preparation for lectures – whether done at home or in the Uni is considered irrelevant.
      2.A senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore makes 7000 -10,000$ a month but according to this article a senior lecturer in Lanka gets 300$ @ current exchange rates!
      3.corrupt to the eyeballs and looting public money while on a borrowing spree, Rajapakse and the perfumed and preening clown at the Central Bank – Cabraal has been boasting that SL is a middle income country with a galloping per capita income. Why does not the lecturers salaries should reflect this! Or are the per capita figures merely fictional statistics cooked up by the fibber who runs the CB?
      This MS needs to go back to grade school and get an education again it seems!

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        MS has written excellent article. Most Sri Lankan university teachers think they are teaching universities in Singapore, Hong Kong. All universities in Sri Lanka don’t have below 200 Asian rankings.Lecturer in a Singapore University has to published many papers in well reputed world class journals. Their salary increment and promotion are largely depend on their research publication and patents. Sri Lankan university teachers salary should compared with other public institutions in Sri Lanka and not National University of Singapore. If you want to such a salary you should apply to NUS. NUS/NTU or SMU give employement for foreign professors. No one forcefully keep in SL universities. If they are competence enough, they can join universities in abroad. We know countries such as China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Midlest offer job to foreign professors. However, most of SL professors who are attached to social sciencs are not qualifed due to no adequate research publications. Most of FUTA consist, these kind of teachers.
        According to My poinion, Sri Lankan university teachers and students need some competiton for improving their quality. Government should allow for entering private sector to university education. Ministry should pass the law and regulations soon. Minister S.B has said that some foreign universities from Australia, Japan and China keen to enter to Sri Lanka.

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          It is true that Teacher and students need some competition, as this pro-govt stooge says. Lets allocate comparable funds so that the competition can start on equal footing.

  • 0
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    What nonsense from the media propaagandists of the government!

    Read the excellent and detailed response of why FUTA is engaging in this action by Dileni Gunewardene in the Island a few days ago to find a good refutation of all these allegations.

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    I think you forgot to tell bout the fuel allowances, pension that the other government people get ( SLAS, central bank, authorities, all the secretaries etc.) which is up to 180 L of petrol per month) which academics are not entitled……. since UPF and EPF are calculated to the basic salary , we need the increase in the basic salary not for the gross salary that you talks about also I would like to ask the actual amount of money that the government gives for R&D for the university system to be spent on consumables, equipment and access rights for international data bases etc…….. I think he simply ignore these facts to prove his fact…… for his information, for an undergraduate degree porgramme that we have 50 students for each batch the total allocation of money for consumables, travelling, equipment is pathetic 400,000.00 (we have four batches so that allocation per student is Rs. 2000.00 per year) why don’t you talk about these pathetic government allocations Mr. Malinda? . Also if you do not know why even allocated little bit of money can not be spent by the universities, they (treasury)send the money in November of each year and then ask the university to spend it by December…. under the present system it takes at least three months to make a purchase after going through all TECs, tender boards etc…. if you want to reconfirm this fact contact the bursars of the universities, they will tell you with figure…… so please do not spread baseless lies …………..

  • 0
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    This is “His Masters Voice”. Anyway it needs a reply. (I am not an office bearer of FUTA, I am just a member.)

    With the current struggle FUTA has started a new Journey. It will be an organization which takes policy stands on the national issues affecting the higher education in the future. Thus, don’t blame FUTA for its past history. It is emerging from this shortsighted past. If you want to blame for the past, please talk to the past FUTA leaders who are now working with the government against their fellow teachers (One is a Vice Chancellor, One is in the UGC, One got an extraordinary extension beyond 65 years of age in his last year to continue in the Deanship which is an elected position).

    The editor of Nation must ask the government to compare our salaries with the Central Bank which we used earlier to compare our salaries. Don’t take other categories in the public service to compare our work.

    If you think that Supreme Court judges should be paid more than us, ask the government to increase their salaries and perks. Pleases compare their salaries and perks with other two branches of government ie. the Ministers and MPs. To protect the Independent of Judiciary the Judges should be paid the highest salary in the public service. We don’t dispute it.

    When we ask the benefits available to public service, the government says that we are not a part of the public service. When we ask the pay scheme which was agreed by the government to implement gradually in the last year, we become a part of public service.

    The Sabbatical leave is what we earned by not using our normal leave. For one academic year we save one month. That is a standard practice in the Universities around the world. It is not a privileged. It is something we earned. To get 10 months of Sabbatical leave a confirmed lecturer must serve seven years without taking normal leave (if we take normal leave they would be reduced from the sabbatical leave).

    We mark question papers twice a year. The payment is a nominal one. Until our last year’s strike they paid RS.20 per paper. It was increased to Rs.100.00 last year due to our strike. We don’t mark question papers every day. We have examinations twice in the year. Most of us do not mark more than 100 papers annually. The monthly average is less than Re.200.00

    Yes, some teachers do outside work to earn money. The low salary is one of the contributory factors. You cannot say majority would earn money in this way.

    Why don’t you add the lecturers who hold the positions in the government to give a better picture about the earnings from other sources? Look at the name list of Ministry Secretaries, Foreign Service, Government Corporations, the Companies Created by some ministers to outsource public funds and even the very UGC which preach us how to walk straight, you could find many lecturers who evaded the teaching and other duties in the universities to enjoy perks and earn money.

    The majority of University Teachers today are in the category of Probationary Lecturer who receives the lowest salary point you mentioned in your article. We have nearly 2300 in the system now (more than 50%). Most of them are not doing this outside work. They are working hard to complete their post graduate qualifications while struggling with other family burdens. Our worry is the system would lose these people due to the present outdated salary structure. Look at the remuneration and service conditions introduced in 2011 by Indian UGC to get an idea to understand how the policy makers should approach this important segment in our society. We are not asking everything in those schemes.

    Now FUTA has educated all its members about their responsibility towards the national issue of improving the quality of education. That is why FUTA says that our struggle would continue.

    FUTA members have reached the public sphere and highlighted the importance of increasing the government spending on Education with clear targets. I think the news paper editors like you and also a product of the present university system should take up this issue with the government rather than blaming the FUTA, if you accept the fact that editors of news papers also have a public responsibility.

    I must say one thing we will not stop our struggle until we succeeded in creating a new policy environment (sometimes with a new Act) which guarantee “University Autonomy” which according to Lisbon Declaration on University Autonomy includes four elements,
    1. Academic Autonomy (deciding on degree supply, curriculum and methods of teaching, deciding on areas, scope, aims and methods of research),
    2. Financial Autonomy (acquiring and allocating funding, deciding on tuition fees, accumulating surplus),
    3. Organizational Autonomy (setting university structures and statutes, making contracts, electing decision-making bodies and persons),
    4. Staffing Autonomy (responsibility for recruitment, salaries and promotions) [all of which are now open to political interference].

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      SL Universities have Autonomy except 2 (namely financial autonomy). Only government can not 100% fund. Natural Science research needs much money. Universities have to make join ventures with private companies and international research organization. To get from outside fund, universities in Sri Lanka need to good world ranking and reputation. Academic reputation depend on research publications. Sri Lankan acedemic has to look at foreign funds. University scheme of recruitment should be changed. Scheme of recruitment should give piority to PhD-holders with research publication. According to my knowledge I can give one example from China. Chinese universities give priority to attract scholars and PhD-holders with good research publications. US and Chinese universities does not care of first degree of the person much. If you visit profiles of some professors of Finance or accounting you can see their first degree is different. Some of them have Engineering, Physics degrees.Sri Lankan universities have sinor professors. If some body look at their profile, they would think these fellows have done great research and won the nobel prices. But, it is shame. Some of them haven’t done single publication in heigh ranking journals. It is strange, how these professors got their professorship. A recomended B and B recomended A, without any research and contribution to knowledge.

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        Critisism shows that SUN doesn’t know the promotion criteria adapted by UGC for professor/ Associate Professor after thorough discussion with the academic community. To obtain adeqaute marks is not an easy task. Better to go through the relevant UGC circular before commenting on the qualifications of a professor.

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    This is a typical drive-by smear by one of the premier PAID Rajapaksa lackeys who is singularly unethical and unprincipled.

    I look forward to the day that he tells us how little members of the Rajapaksa clan draw in their several government employments but, more important, how they supplement those pathetic emoluments.

    Come on, as Editor-in-chief of a newspaper owned by the Rajapaksa family, you should be able to access such information and, mind you, we are not asking for such details as designer watches, foreign currency etc. etc. in their possession.

  • 0
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    The comments are more readable than Malindas propaganda – as usual.

    • 0
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      Punchinilame, what you mean is that the comments made have more sense and the article of the lackey is full of nonsense?

  • 0
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    None of the academics commenting here has not answered on the conflicting demands of FUTA.

    Mr. Ranjith say that a university in Singapore pays $7000-10,000 a month but does’nt say how much that university charges from the students. Even in Sri lanka good tuition masters earn that much if not more.

    Yes,The salaries need to be increased and the allocation for education of the government needs to be increased too. One is a proffessional issue and the other is a national issue. As such they should have been taken up seperately. At present it seems all has got mixed up in to one big confusion and no one seems to know for sure what they want or what to give.

    • 0
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      They need salary increment and asked for free education for their 2 kids in national/ private/ international school. They mislead the people for demanding 6% of GDP for education. They have to demand one at one time. These two are conflecting demand. Now givep salary issue and ask for 6% GDP for education. Don’t lie to public. You have paid leave for every five years, you have EPF/ETF and Pansion. Every five year duty free care permit, medical schemes and low interest housing loan. General public has bad attitude about professors.

  • 0
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    Malinda Seneviratne – the man without shame nor principals – strikes again!

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    This comment is not about the content of the article because they are speaking from the other mouth. I am also from outside the academic community.

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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    Banda – you stupid idiot, FUTA did not ask free education for two of their children. They were talking about scholarships given to foreign students and mentioned that that could have been given to “Apey daruwan dedenek” – meaning TWO SRI LANKAN children. How do you know how many children they have and so many of them dont have children too. Do you think they are stupid to put that as a demand? Use your brain. If you have one. “Apey daruwo” = children of OUR country. This was deliberately misunderstood by stupid people like you.

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    see Kathika – https://kathika.wordpress.com, the article name is – vam ivuren dhakunu ivurata ……..

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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