Teachers of 37 public universities went on an indefinite strike yesterday to protest against alleged discrimination in the Eighth National Pay Scale, saying that they were compelled to go for such programmes as no one in the government had paid any heed to their demands for the last eight months. “We knocked at different quarters in the government during the past eight months to get the pay scale issue resolved, but no one paid any heed to the issue, rather treated us as outcasts,” said Professor Farid Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers’ Association (FBUTA), a platform of teachers of the 37 public universities.
He continued: “We tried to even meet the prime minister and sent many letters to her through different means. We don’t know whether she has got the letters or not. At this stage, we have no alternative than to abstain from academic activities to push for our demands.”
“The government got a lot of time … we have our back against the wall,” he said and vowed to continue with the agitation unless their demands are met.
Thanking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for showing the highest respect for the teachers’ community, Farid Uddin said, “We would request her to investigate why there is dissatisfaction among all over the new pay scale. Such dissatisfaction did not arise during the seventh pay scale,” he said.
Meanwhile, the spectre of session jam looms large over the 37 public universities after teachers, under the banner of the Federation of Bangladesh University
Teachers’ Association (FBUTA), went on the indefinite strike.
The strike is the culmination of a long-running dispute between the government and university teachers without a solution in sight. The teachers have put forward three demands, including reinstatement of selection grade and time scale.
No classes or exams were held at any public university anywhere in the country yesterday, said Prof Fariduddin Ahmed, who is also the spokesperson for FBUTA.
However, teachers at DU and BUET decided they would not take classes but would administer the final examinations during the strike, while Jahangirnagar University, SUST, BAU, KU, KUET, Jagananth University, and CU teachers announced that they will abstain from all academic and administrative activities until their demands were met.
“We may include final exams if we do not get any positive response from the government,” Farid Uddin said.
The teachers’ movement has left students worried a lot. Masud, a student of Mass Communication and Journalism at DU, said: “We are very concerned about our semester schedule. The teachers’ movement may cause session jam.”
He said it was unfortunate that university teachers across the country have been taking to the streets over their demands without continuing regular academic activities for more than six months now.
Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has criticised the teachers’ movement. “Public university teachers enjoy better facilities than other officials. Their retirement age is 65 years, while the age limit is 59 years for the others. I cannot understand why they are disrupting educational activities,” the PM said at a rally at Shurawardy Udayan.
On January 2, FBUTA had announced that teachers would go on an indefinite strike from January 11 if their demands went unheeded. The teachers of all the public universities also wore black badges on January 3 and observed a two-hour strike on January 7. Earlier, the government had formed a review committee, headed by Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhit, to look into the issue.
On December 6, the minister had assured the teachers that the government will consider their three demands, but the recently published salary gazette does not address their first two demands.