For over ten years, Tamil Nadu’s government secondary school teachers have been protesting the irrational disparity in pay scales. Secondary Grade Teachers (SGT) appointed after May 31, 2009, are paid Rs 3,170 lesser than those appointed on or prior to the mentioned date, even though there is no difference in their educational qualifications and work requirements.
Under the leadership of the Secondary Grade Seniority Teacher’s Association (SSTA), teachers have staged several intense protests over the past decade. However, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-led government continues to remain apathetic to their demand of “equal pay for equal work”.
Even last week, the SGTs sat on a hunger strike reiterating their one-point demand.
INCREASING DISPARITY IN PAY
Following an eight-day long hunger strike by the SGTs in 2016, then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s government promised to remove the disparity in pay once the seventh pay commission would be implemented. However, with the implementation of the seventh pay commission, the disparity in pay only further increased.
“For twelve years, the yearly increment differed for those with just one-day difference in date of joining, amounting to a large disparity in pay,” reads the statement of SSTA dated February 22. It further added, “Given that these discrepancies are extending year after year, the wage disparity should be squashed at once.”
Teachers, who were appointed after the implementation of the sixth pay commission in June 2009, are paid Rs 8000 at present, as opposed to their seniors who get Rs 11,170 every month.
Targeting the state education department, J Robert, general secretary of SSTA told Newsclick, “Only in Tamil Nadu something like this is happening, and that too in no other department to my knowledge. Equal work should be compensated with equal pay, it is as simple as that.”
MORE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA, BUT LESS PAY
“The secondary grade teachers working in Tamil Nadu do ‘same work’ and have ‘same educational qualifications’ but are paid two different basic pay scales,” says the SSTA statement. Additionally, it points out that those who joined work post 2011 are required to pass the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET).
The TETs were made compulsory through an order passed on November 15, 2011 for appointment of Secondary Grade Teachers. Though the teachers have cleared both the mandatory diploma and the TET, they are not paid at par with SGTs appointed before 2009.
Referring to TET, Robert said, “Teachers appointed over the past 10 years have to pass more eligibility criteria, but are paid lesser than those who were appointed earlier, how is this fair?”
Stressing on the irrationality of two different pay scales, the teachers’ union office bearers stated, “All we are asking for is equality in pay, we are not asking for something out of the way.”
The union alleges that denying equal pay for equal work amounts to violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution.
Following an eight-day long hunger strike in 2018, the state education department formed a one-person committee to submit a report on the wage disparity issue. The teachers’ union alleged that a report was submitted on January 5, 2019 to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, but it was yet to be made public even after two years.
The union’s statement adds that the government has repeatedly promised to look into the matter, but is yet to do so.