On the 10th of September, FUTA was requested to attend a meeting at the Ministry of Labour. At that meeting, FUTA received a letter stating that the ‘industrial dispute’ between FUTA and the University Grants Commission (UGC) will be settled through a process of arbitration.
FUTA was asked to nominate an arbitrator on their behalf for this process.
FUTA is strongly of the opinion that the issues that it has raised through its trade union action cannot be termed an ‘industrial dispute’ between FUTA and the UGC. The issues raised by FUTA are policy related and need to be addressed through good faith discussions. We have sought legal opinion on this issue and we have been advised that we need not comply with the request to seek arbitration.
Furthermore, FUTA has been participating in negotiations with Minister Basil Rajapakse as well as Dr P.B. Jayasundera. At the last meeting with Dr Jayasundera, the Treasury Secretary informed us of a proposal to find a mutually agreeable long term solution to the problems of university academics. It is extremely puzzling, why less than a week after those discussions, FUTA has been suddenly requested to submit to arbitration. It suggests confusion and worse still, duplicity on the part of the government. FUTA engaged in discussions with various government parties in good faith and with the intention of negotiating a settlement to the various problems affecting the education sector. Instead, through this latest development, the government has demonstrated that it is unable to comprehend the nature of these problems and that its declarations during the negotiation process are worthless. This raises issues of tremendous concern with regard to the state of governance in this country.
FUTA is of the opinion that this attempt to term the issues FUTA has raised as an ‘industrial dispute’ will only serve to deepen the crisis in the education sector. FUTA also wishes to inform the public that it will not consent to voluntary arbitration as the issues it is seeking to resolve cannot be settled in this manner. FUTA requests the government to reveal its position with regard to these issues and to refrain from acting in this contradictory and duplicitous manner.
Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri