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Friday, September 4, 2015, Bhadra 20, 1422 BS, Zilqad 19, 1436 Hijr

Univ teachers threaten movement
Nazmus Sakib and Abdul Karim
Published :Friday, 4 September, 2015,  Time : 10:56 PM  View Count : 160
The leaders of the public university teachers' federation, most of whom belong to the progressive forces led by the ruling Awami League, threaten to go on strike if the government fails to redressing their grievances over the proposed 8th National Pay Scale. They also think that a section of bureaucrats is involved in a conspiracy to deprive senior professors from getting remunerations equivalent to the top bureaucrats to alienate the government from the people. If the proposed pay scale, that humiliated public university teachers by degrading them at least three rungs below the bureaucrats, is passed, it will boomerang on the government, they predicted. The AL-led progressive forces will lose the leadership of public universities since every teacher, irrespective of political ideologies, are vehemently opposing the proposed national pay scale as it is a matter of honour, said Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed, Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers' Association (FBUTA) and Dhaka University Teachers' Association (DUTA) president.  Out of 37 public universities, teachers associations of 36 are run by the AL led progressive forces, he added. They said that they have no clash with the bureaucrats as their areas of work are different but demand a separate pay scale for public university teachers. In the proposed pay scale, senior professors are downgraded from selection grade which means they are going to be deprived of salaries equivalent to top bureaucrats. According to a government notification, 25 per cent of the professors in a university can be elevated to selection grade. But even if the quota is not filled up, a professor can only be upgraded when he has completed five-year experience.           Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed told the Daily Observer that if they are not in the selection grade, the teachers will go five rungs below. He said teachers are in the selection grade from 1973. So, it becomes a right of the teachers which cannot be denied. DUTA leader Prof Dr AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan said, "Degrading the public university teachers is definitely a part of the ongoing conspiracy against the AL-led government.  A force lurking within the bureaucracy is instrumental in the conspiracy as they are giving wrong advice to the government to degrade teachers," A senior professor said, "If the government does not yield to the demand of the university teachers, the movement may be dreadful for the government. When an AL-sympathiser teacher raises his voice against the government against humiliation it creates a negative sentiment among the people as teachers are so respectable." Moreover, 65,000 primary school headmasters are engaged in protest against government decision as it did not recognise them as Class II employees. The private university students now have to pay 7 per cent VAT in education costs. So, the students as well as authorities of universities are engaged in protest against the government. So, a big part of education sector is against the government decision as it affects them. Prof AJM Shafiul, also the Chairman of Film and Television Studies Department, said if the honour of university teachers is snatched, meritorious students will be disinterested to join the profession. Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed said, "We cannot bank on the Finance Minister as he is out to curtail the right of the teachers." From 1973, university senior professors have been being granted salary equivalent to secretaries. FBUTA Secretary General Prof Dr ASM Maksud Kamal, also the DUTA Secretary General, said, "Public university teachers wanted to observe nonstop work abstention but we convinced them not to do so considering the students' future and the mourning month of August." "Even, the authority concerned didn't hold any meeting in this regard and now we come to know that our demands will not be met," he said. "If the pay scale is passed without forming a commission then we will hold a National Convention to take up programmes to spearhead a tough movement to realise our demand," he added. Prof Maksud said, "If the government doesn't meet our demand, we will have no option but to observe nonstop work abstention in the public universities like that of Sri Lanka, which was observed for four months in 2012." As part of the movement, FBUTA leaders are slated to hold a joint meeting with all Vice-Chancellors of the public universities at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on September 5, Prof Maksud said.  After the meeting, a joint press conference will be held. We have a plan to observe a full day work abstention on Sunday", he added. He said, "We are observing many kinds of programmes including forming human chains, work abstention, strike, handing of memorandum and meeting with Education Ministry, UGC Chairman and the Finance Minister." Prof Farid said, "Finance Minister Muhit is making all-out efforts to deprive teachers. So, we cannot bank on him anymore. He always acts against the people which is evident as he gave clean chit to the biggest scams-- BASIC Bank and Sonali Bank." Expressing solidarity with the university teachers' demands, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid earlier wrote to five secretaries, who were in charge of revising the 8th Pay Scale report. But they did not reply to the letter.  "They don't know how to show respect to a Minister," Prof Maksud said.  Prof Maksud also said, "Secretaries are hatching a conspiracy against the government. They are always working for the next government. The bureaucrats' move to deprive teachers makes them (teachers) more aggressive." Jagannath University Associate Prof Razib Mir said that every university teacher is concerned about the proposed national pay scale as they feel humiliated.  "So, the Warrant of Precedence has been broken. They have cancelled our selection grade professor rank. We need separate pay scales to save our prestige and honour," he said. Prof Maksud Kamal earlier said in his written speech, "If our demands are not met, we'll march to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to submit the signatures of 13,900 public university teachers, which is almost 97 per cent of the total number in the country, who have expressed solidarity with our demand." All public university teachers observed a three-hour work abstention from 10:00am to 1:00pm last Sunday and they will again observe the same programme next Sunday. No classes excepting the scheduled examinations were held on the campuses during the programme. Prof Maksud claimed that a division had already been created among the state employees by keeping two super grades in the new pay scale which is at the same time controversial and disgraceful. Besides, Prof Maksud Kamal alleged that the 17-member Pay Commission did not have any discussion with the teachers beforehand to prepare the final draft of the document that has virtually made the entire process recommended by committee secretary Dr Farash Uddin questionable.  He demanded immediate revision of the pay scale keeping the senior professors and senior secretaries of the government in the same bracket in terms of payment and status.RI

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