Deadlock at 35 public universities as teachers strike over pension scheme

DU teachers' sit-in programme at the Arts Building as part of the protestProthom Alo

Classes and examinations in 35 public universities of the country have come to a standstill due to the movement of teachers, officials and employees over pension. An indefinite work abstention has started in these universities from yesterday Monday.

The university teachers say that no proposal for discussion has been broached by anyone from the government (up to 8:00pm yesterday). The teachers said they are ready to hold dialogue and want to resume classes and exams quickly. But if the demands are not addressed, they will have no choice but to continue the program.

The teachers, officials and employees of public universities have taken up the movement demanding withdrawal of the universal pension scheme prottoy. According to the government, about 400 organisations or institutions including self-governing, autonomous, state-owned, statutory or similar organisations and their subordinate bodies will be given pensions under the new program.

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The new scheme will be applicable for those recruited in these organisations from 1 July. The Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers' Associations (FBUTA) maintain that the facility for teachers will decrease in the new system and the scheme is discriminatory and demeaning for them. The teachers are waging the movement for the newcomers.  

The teachers are waging the protest in three demands-- withdrawal of universal pension scheme, inclusion of the university teachers in super grade and a separate pay scale for the teachers—while the officials and staff’s only demand is withdrawal of the pension scheme.

FBUTA president Md Akhtarul Islam told Prothom Alo last night, “None even called to inquire how we are, let alone making any proposal for dialogue.”

Work abstention

Prothom Alo correspondents and reporters from various universities including Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET), Jahangirnagar University, Chittagong University, Rajshahi University, Jagannath University, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Khulna University, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet informed that classes and examinations were suspended in these institutions yesterday. Some universities took pre-scheduled examinations but it will remain suspended from today.  

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FBUTA president Md Akhtarul Islam told Prothom Alo that the work abstention programme was observed in 35 public universities that are with the movement. There are currently over 16,000 teachers in 55 public universities of the country. The number of officials and staff is around 35,000.

In DU, an all-out strike was observed yesterday. The university’s examination controller’s department suspended all examinations through a notification Sunday. Alongside the classes, the central library of the DU was closed too.

DU observed its founding anniversary yesterday amid the strike. The day before, DU Teacher’s Association’s (DUTA) general secretary Zeenat Huda announced a boycott of the programme organised at Teachers Student Center (TSC) marking the day. She along with DUTA president Md Nizamul Haque Bhuiyan were absent at the programme but many teachers including other DUTA leaders joined the programme.

Nizamul Haque Bhuiyan told Prothom Alo that he could not join the programme due to illness.

The Association of DU’s officials-staff also observed a strike yesterday.

Teachers and officials of Jahangirnagar University also observed the strike yesterday.

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Jahangirnagar University teachers association president Motahar Hossain said, “We’ve been waging a movement for three months. We held the human chain first then observed work abstention for one and two hours. We then observed half-day and full-day strikes while continuing examinations. But we are pushed to the wall now.”

He said the teachers are waging a movement for the sake of the future students.

“Meritorious students won’t come to this profession if the remaining facilities teachers enjoy are withdrawn. The nation will be hit hard if brilliant students don’t come to the teaching profession,” he added.

In Rajshahi University, teachers took positions in front of the university senate building between 11:00am to 12 noon.

Teachers of Bangladesh Agriculture University in Mymensingh are also observing the strike. As part of the movement, the teachers observed a sit-in at Aamtala near the administrative building for an hour yesterday noon. The teachers vowed to continue their movement until the government withdraws prottoy pension scheme.

FBUTA president vents frustration

DUTA formed a five member committee for reviewing the new pension scheme after the finance division on 13 March issued a gazette for the prottoy scheme. The committee made an assessment report and submitted it to the education ministry. According to the report, the facilities would decrease for teachers under the new scheme.

National Pension Authority’s member Md Golam Mostafa told Prothom Alo yesterday that at the end facilities would not decrease for any professionals. It is not correct that meritorious students won’t come to the teaching profession if prottoy scheme is introduced.

The teachers said there remains much ambiguity in prottoy scheme which needs to be taken care of. But none from the government clarified anything as of now.

FBUTA president Md Akhtarul Islam last night expressed frustration that none from the government yet to pay any heed to the demands of the teachers.