Varsity teachers refuse govt clarification, continue protests against pension scheme

Dhaka University teachers hold protest programme on the arts building premises on 2 July, 2024.Prothom Alo

Public university teachers have refused the national pension authority's clarification, terming it ‘wrong,’ and vowed to continue their ongoing all-out strike across the campuses.

The teachers have recently been included in the Prottoy scheme of the universal pension scheme, disentitling them to their conventional pension system. In protest, they waged an indefinite work abstention programme since 1 July, the day that marked the formal operation of the Prottoy scheme.

When asked about the teachers’ stance, Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at the secretariat on Tuesday described the ongoing movement as ‘irrational,’ without detailing his statement further.

Meanwhile, the pension authority explained its stance regarding the application of the Prottoy scheme to university teachers.

As per the explanation, teachers, officers, and employees who have been recruited until 30 June 2024 will enjoy the conventional pension system, while the prottoy scheme will only be applicable to new recruits.

In its statement, the national pension authority provided a detailed explanation on the gratuity, retirement age, and some other confusions.

Akhtarul Islam, president of the Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers Association (FBUTA) and a professor at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), categorically refused the clarifications.

“I have read it in newspapers, and also saw a pension authority member speaking on television. The prottoy scheme has been misinterpreted,” he said, expressing a firm stance to keep up their movement until their demands are met.

Prothom Alo correspondents have reported that classes and examinations were suspended in a majority of universities across the country on Tuesday.

The FBUTA said all universities are with them as they are holding the strike programme in 35 public universities that are now open.

Students are failing to attend classes due to the teachers' protest, while examinations have come to a complete halt at the leading public universities.

The three demands of the teachers include the withdrawal of the prottoy scheme, the inclusion of university teachers in the super grade, and the introduction of a dedicated pay scale for them.

On the Dhaka University campus, the teachers held a strike programme on the arts building premises on Tuesday. Addressing the gathering, Zeenat Huda, general secretary of the university’s teachers association, said their movement is aimed at safeguarding the future generation.

Describing the pension scheme as discriminatory, she questioned the intention behind its imposition on the university teachers and declared that the teacher community would accept it under no circumstances.

There are two groups – the pro-Awami League ‘blue panel’ and the pro-BNP ‘white panel’ – among the Dhaka University teachers. They oppose each other on most of the issues, but have come under the same umbrella against the pension scheme.

Attending the programme, Lutfor Rahman, convener of the pro-BNP group White Panel, warned that their movement would spread among the masses if the government delays in meeting the demands.

“Our teachers might have differences in ideals, but there is no ideological difference when it comes to this movement. It is a movement related to our life and death. We must win it,” he told the gathering.