Today, Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake said 90% of the issues that caused the Inter-University Non-academic Employees’ Federation strike have been resolved. The majority of the striking factions will return to work. A more radically politicized contingent of the group remains defiant, however. Dissanayake promised that appropriate force will be taken against the remainder should they attempt to prevent other employees from returning.
The strike began June 6. University Trade Union Joint Committee (IUTUJC) co-chairman R.M. Chandrapala estimates that it costs the nation of Sri Lanka 100 million rupees (about US $7,603,980) per-day. Non-academic employees from 13 universities and 26 other affiliated institutions are involved. Though the IUTUJC officially called the strike, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a Sri-Lankan Marxist party, and the United National Party (UNP) are involved, along with several independent unions.
Strikers demand that the government put a stop to unfair wages and inconsistent payouts, or “pay anomalies,” to non-academic university employees. Although the call was first issued in 2004, the financial situation for non-academic university employees became intolerable due to a recent rise in inflation.
Panini Wijesiriwardane blames unions themselves for the pay anomalies in an article on the World Socialist Website, citing several instances over the past decade in which union officials compromised strikes early, satisfied with partial concessions on behalf of the government. This time around, the striking workers demand a 25% pay raise, more clearance for housing loans, and pension plans.
P. M. J. R. Fernando, a representative of the striking factions, said that if the government fails to address these issues, Sri Lanka’s university system will “die a natural death,” confident that academic faculty and other effected groups will join in the action eventually if an agreement is not met. Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, chief of Sri Lanka's Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA), confirmed that his organization plans to mount an “indefinite trade union action” on its own behalf beginning July 4.