Strike, talks go on | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 13, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:48 AM, January 13, 2016

Strike, talks go on

Public university teachers meet education minister, to continue strike until demands met; Nahid hopes to reach a solution soon

Agitating public university teachers have vowed to continue their movement, but said they would also hold talks with the government simultaneously to realise their demands.

The announcement came after a delegation of the teachers' leaders met Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday, the second day of the strike at all public universities across the country.

There was no positive outcome from the meeting, but both sides hoped there would be a breakthrough soon.

The Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers Association (FBUTA) president and secretary general sat in the meeting with the minister and the education secretary at the secretariat in the evening.

"At the discussion, they assured us that they would sincerely try to meet our demands and discuss with the finance ministry and other officials concerned for a positive result," said Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed, president of the Federation.

The FBUTA is a platform for the country's 37 public universities with about 12,400 teachers and 2.4 lakh students. 

"We will not back away from our movement. Our movement will go on and we will continue discussions to solve the crisis," Farid Uddin told The Daily Star after the meeting.

Nahid said they had an open and fruitful discussion with the teachers and that he expected a solution before long.

"We are moving towards a solution to the crisis. I hope it would be possible to solve the problem through discussions," the minister told this correspondent.

Federation Secretary General Prof ASM Maksud Kamal said the minister wanted to know the implications of removing selection grade and time scale from the 8th pay scale, and they explained those to him.

"He [the minister] wanted to know our proposals to solve the crisis. We replied that we have nothing new to say. He told us that he agreed with our demands,” he said.

The federation began the indefinite strike on Monday, protesting the “government inaction” in addressing their demand for removing the “pay disparity” with bureaucrats.

Prof Farid Uddin teaches economics and Prof Maksud disaster science and management at Dhaka University.

Teachers have been protesting the 8th pay scale since May last year, pressing for a four-point demand, including a separate pay scale for public university teachers.

The other demands are parity between senior professors and senior secretaries, and between professors and secretaries in salaries and allowances; upgradation of teachers' status in the warrant of precedence, and equalisation of the provisions for cars and foreign and government scholarships and allowances between teachers and bureaucrats.

Things took a turn for the worse, after the government issued a gazette on the pay scale on December 15 without mentioning the selection grade and time scale.

Frustrated, the teachers staged protests at their universities. On January 7, they gave an ultimatum for the government to meet their demands by January 10.

As no such move came, they started an indefinite work stoppage programme on Monday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticised the teachers and asked them not to wage a movement, but in vain.

Meanwhile, academic activities at all these universities have come to a near halt, causing concerns among the students.

"Our final exams were supposed to begin today [yesterday], but now we're uncertain about the exams," said Shamima Yeasmin, a master's student of philosophy at Chittagong University.

Like on Monday, faculties and departments of almost all the universities looked deserted and no classes were held yesterday.

At Dhaka University, teachers did not take classes or hold midterm or other class tests, but conducted the ongoing semester and other yearly final examinations.

At a press briefing at DU yesterday morning, Farid Uddin protested the prime minister's remarks.

"The prime minister is not getting information from a neutral source. That's why she made such comments," he said.

At a programme on Monday, Hasina expressed her disappointment about the teachers' demand for the same status as secretaries. "If you [teachers] want status equal to secretaries, just resign and become a secretary by sitting examinations through the PSC. Then there will be no problem."

Referring to the PM's comments, Prof Farid said, "Teachers are very embarrassed, disappointed and surprised to hear prime minister's remarks. I am sure that if she heard our voices, she would not have made such biased comments."

He also claimed that despite several requests for a meeting with the premier for the last eight months, the teachers got no response.

The PM can solve the problem easily, he noted, urging her to sit with the teachers.

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