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Sri Lankan lecturers end their 100-day strike

Sri Lanka’s Federation of University Teachers Association announced an end to its three-month long strike on 12 October.

FUTA says that the decision was taken after its sister unions expressed opposition to the “futile” action and because of the difficulties caused for students.

The strike began on 4 July to demand more government funding for higher education, including a 20 per cent rise in lecturer salaries and an increase in public education spending from 1.8 to 6 per cent of GDP.

The government has refused FUTA’s demands, claiming that increases in education spending would not be possible in the current economic climate. In order to force the strike to end, the government responded by shutting 21 universities down for more than three weeks from 21 August onwards.

FUTA has denied accusations of political manoeuvring. A BBC news report quoted its spokesman, Mahim Mendis, as saying that the government’s claim “Simply wasn’t true … to suggest we want regime change is frivolous. You need to understand, FUTA includes academics from all political parties. This is a national struggle.”

Around 26 trade unions and student and civil society organisations joined FUTA in three days of protest marches against the government on 26 to 28 September. However, some students have also opposed a strike that has interrupted their education.

FUTA says that the strike ends without satisfactory commitments from the government towards improving Sri Lanka’s higher education system. The government has offered an increase in education spending but has not specified when or how this will be achieved. In terms of salary increases, FUTA says the Secretary to the Treasury has promised to address the demand within the next five years, starting with the 2013 budget.

The union adds that it remains committed to achieving its demands in the long-term and will continue to monitor the government’s actions.