Chennai: Hundreds of special part-time teachers working in government schools are on a sit-in protest for the sixth day in Chennai. Demanding permanent jobs and fair wages, the teachers are unwilling to relent unless the government gives assurance.
A total of 12,917 teachers of the 16,549 appointed in 2012, have been working for three half days per week, across the state. An order issued on February 1, 2021 to increase the working days to three full days per week is also being withdrawn for reasons unknown.
Hundreds of these teachers are staying put in the Directorate of Public Instruction (DPI) campus to claim their rights. The government and officials from the department of education have turned a blind eye on the protest led by the Tamil Nadu Part Time Special Teachers Association (TNPSTA).
‘GIVE US PERMANENT JOBS, RIGHTS’
The TNPSTA began their protest on February 4, determined to find a solution for their long-pending demands. These special teachers were recruited to train students in music, drawing, physical education and arts.
The teachers say they have been working without fair wages and social security measures since being recruited. No benefits were paid to those who retired from service and several others who died while in service.
Naveen, state secretary of TNPSTA, told NewsClick, “Our primary demand is permanent jobs. A couple of officials met us to hold talks, which were unfruitful on the first two days of the protests. Since then the government has shown no interest in listening to our demands. We are not ready to end our protest until the government assures us on solutions to our issues”.
The three half day per week schedule has restricted these teachers from taking up any other jobs resulting in many leaving the jobs in search of better paid jobs.
Many other teachers unions have opposed such appointments on consolidated wages, emphasising the dangers of such practices being extended to other teaching positions as well.
SALARY REVISED AFTER PROTEST ANNOUNCEMENT
After being paid Rs 5,000 in 2012 and an increment of Rs 2,000 and Rs 700 in 2014 and 2017, respectively, the teachers will now draw Rs 10,000 per month. The order was issued on February 1, after the organisation announced their indefinite protest.
The same order increased the number of working days to three full days per week, but has been withdrawn immediately.
“We are not sure why the number of days was revised. We have been demanding permanent jobs and the paltry increase in wages are aimed at diluting our protest”, said Naveen.
The organisation also pointed out that various trade unions have been demanding a minimum wage of Rs 18,000, which is why such low wages paid to qualified teachers were condemnable.
In a statement, the association said: “A minimum of Rs 18,000 wage must be fixed and work should be provided for all days in the academic year. The service of the teachers must be accounted for from the date of appointment”.
‘EXTEND SOCIAL WELFARE BENEFITS’
The lack of social security measures continue to put the teachers under severe stress. The teachers said they were not entitled to pension, gratuity, insurance or maternity leave. More than 60% of these teachers are women.
“The government should incorporate social welfare measures, including provident fund, insurance and maternity leave. The teachers must be provided a gratuity of Rs 1 lakh on retirement or death while in service, till they are made permanent”, the statement added.
The contractualisation of works, even in the education department, has had a detrimental effect, with a huge drop in enrolment in government schools in recent years, as the number of vacancies are on the rise.
The recent announcement of increase in retirement age of government servants, including teachers, was also criticised by associations and youth organisations.