The members of the Joint Action Committee of Tamil Nadu Teachers Organisations - Government Employees Organisations (JACTO-GEO) are on an indefinite strike since 22nd January 2019.
Announcing the strike, JACTO-GEO had said that 10 lakh members from 175 employees and workers unions from across the state will be a part of the strike. Their demands include reversal of contributory pension scheme, payment of arrears according to the Pay Commission’s recommendations and increasing the salaries of secondary school teachers to be at par with the pay of their Central Government counterparts (see box).
Despite threats of action against them and declaration of “no work, no pay” by the State administration, teachers and government employees of Tamilnadu have continued with their strike action.
According to the latest reports, the state government cracked down on the striking teachers and suspended around 450 staff members on 25th January. It is further reported that as many six top leaders of JACTTO-GEO were arrested in Vellore after they were lured by the police for talks at the District Police Office at Sathuvachari on the same night while nine top leaders, coordinating the struggle, were held by the police in Tiruvannamalai. Many teachers were also arrested for holding demonstrations during the strike. At the same time, the government is planning to appoint temporary teachers across schools.
This is not the first time teachers in TN are striking for their demands (see box). They had struck work in October 2018 and again in December 2018 but their demands have not been heard.
The Chief Secretary of the state has said that participation in the strike and affecting the normal functioning of government offices was tantamount to a violation of the Tamil Nadu Government Servants’ Conduct Rules and that such absence will be considered unauthorised, resulting in pay cuts for those days. She further directed that those who work on daily wages and consolidated pay and participate in the strike can be fired. However, the Chief Secretary and the government cannot ignore the fact that not paying arrears due to government employees is a grave dereliction of duty.
The government is not making any attempt to resolve the issue. On the contrary, it is trying every trick to break the struggle of the teachers. One of the Ministers of the TN Government declared that teachers and employees must not protest with demands that cannot be fulfilled by the government. According to the government, implementing the old pension scheme will result in bankruptcy of the government. It quoted an “expert committee” that had studied the proposal which said that pensions would have to be paid by borrowing money, leaving nothing for welfare schemes for the poor.
To say that demands for living wages and a just pension scheme cannot be made is totally unacceptable to the working people. This is the response of governments when faced with just demands for a living wage from the working people. Such governments are not concerned about the welfare of the poor, they announce schemes as sops for buying votes. The economy, whether in TN or any other state, is not oriented to secure the livelihood and human living standards of the working people in this system; it is oriented to fulfill the claims of a minority of monopoly capitalists. In such a context, the state budget is not a tool to serve to interests of the working population. So any demand from one section of the working people is pitted against another section to discredit their demand.
The struggle of teachers all over the country has been intensifying in support of their demand for better living and working conditions. It is the unity of all teachers and working people that will enable them to achieve their demands. MEL supports the strike action of the teachers to press for their just demands.