by Dr. Theodore A. Fernando
A famous Aesopian fable tells us about a lion which prowled about a pasture where three bulls always grazed together. He had tried without success to lure one or the other of them to the edge of the pasture in order to kill.
He had even attempted a direct attack on them, only to see them form a circle so that from whichever direction he approached he was met by the horns of one of them.
The lion devised a plan. Secretly he started spreading evil and slanderous reports of one bull against the other. The three bulls, unfortunately believed the lion, and, began to avoid one another, and each withdrew to different parts of the pasture to graze. Of course, this was exactly what the lion wanted. One by one the lion mauled them the bulls and so made easy prey of them all. I need not discuss about the moral of the story.
But I am afraid that this story gives us a picture of what will happen to our trade union action if we are not united and vigilant. Last year, from our humble beginning, we were able to convince the heads of departments to resign, many compliant with us, but some did not. UGC and the Minister of Education gave endless propaganda saying only a few have resigned and the majority were working. Was it true?
In the past, thanks to some of our courageous members, we were able to organize protest marches and meetings from Devundara to Point Pedro. Many articles were written about our plight, and our just struggle emerged forcefully to the public sphere. Today, even Kalaniya University , which was not in favour of trade union at the beginning has joined forces with FUTA.
The government officials will have to admit that entire university system has been paralysed by FUTA strike. Though the government claimed last time that it was not going to give university teachers a red cent, more than what had been allocated in the previous budget, we were able to hold unto our earlier demands and had the courage and dignity to bargain. The situation has not changed now. All types of false statements are published/broadcast even by some Vic e Chancellors, and pseudo lecturers, who shamelessly betray their own profession just to please the government in power for personal gain.
United we stand; divided we fall! It was due to FUTA’s previous struggle that some of the senior professors got at least a reasonable salary increase, and it is a well known fact that some of the professors were totally against FUTA even last time. But, did they renounce the salary increase? No! Instead, they conveniently pocketed the money without batting an eye-lid.
(Dr.Theodore Fernando is Senior lecturer at Open University of Sri Lanka)