The teachers decided to go on strike at this time, which couldn’t have been more perfect, when the board exams are fast approaching. When the members of the JACTO-GEO, announced their intentions to go on strike from January 22nd, it’s natural to expect this situation to affect the Government Schools across the state leaving the taught in the lurch. This too coming at the time, where days after schools in Tamil Nadu reopened after Pongal holidays, members of the Joint Action Committee of Tamil Nadu Teachers Organization- Government employees Organisation (JACTO-GEO) are on an indefinite strike from Tuesday the 22nd January. The announcement of the strike prompted the Chief Secretary to warn employees who take part in the strike of severe and strict disciplinary action.

Announcing the strike, JACTO-GEO, said that 10 lakh members from 175 employees and workers’ unions from across the State will be part of the strike. According to reports, JACTO-GEO members have opted to sit out of work for their demands to be fulfilled which includes, reversal of contributory pension scheme, payment of arrears in accordance with the Pay Commission’s recommendations, increasing the salaries of Secondary School teachers at par with the pay of their Central Government counterparts.

In other words, their demands also include scrapping of the new contributory pension scheme and reviving the old pension scheme, regularisation of services of those under special consolidated pay and payment of 21-month arrears of pay as per pay commission recommendations. The teachers have also made request not to post them in newly opened kindergarten sections in middle schools. Teachers have also condemned the Government’s recent initiative to merge elementary schools with nearby high or higher secondary schools stating that it will have an adverse impact on the students’ learning process.

Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, Smt. Girija Vaidyanathan, informed all district government offices and department heads that participating in the strike and affecting the normal functioning of government offices would tantamount to a violation of the Tamil Nadu Government Servant’s Conduct Rules and that such absence will be considered unauthorised, resulting in pay cuts for those days and will not be entitled to allowances too.  Her letter also stated that those who work on daily wages and consolidated pay and participate in the strike can be fired. It is also informed that application for causal leave or any other leave from the employees, other than medical leave, shall not be allowed during the period of the strike. Moreover, staff on daily wages and on consolidated pay are liable to be discharged from service she added. However, JACTO-GEO were firm and went ahead with the indefinite strike.

JACTO-GEO, for his part, had decided previously to go on strike from December 4, 2018, pressing for their charter demands to be fulfilled, but this was later postponed. Representatives of JACTO-GEO, also met fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar and detailed their demands. However, the meeting turned out to be unsatisfactory, since the Minister did not give any assurance about the demands.

Representatives from three Government Employees’ associations have decided not to take part in the strike. Reports stated that members of Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association (TANSA), Tamil Nadu Government Officials Union (TNGOU) and Tamil Nadu Government Officials Association met the Chief Secretary and presented their charter of demands. After she assured them that she would look into the matter and take necessary action, members of the three unions have promised not to participate in the strike.  

Now in the current scenario, as the indefinite strike entered the third day on Thursday, the Tamil Nadu Government decided to engage retired and temporary staffs to handle primary grade classes. The Government admitted that functioning of primary schools had been affected. Most of the schools have only two teachers and many of them had remained locked since Tuesday last in their absence.

Pradeep Yadav, the state school education secretary, has directed all district-level officials to engage retired staffs or qualified temporary staffs and pay them a consolidated amount of Rs.7500/- per month. Parent Teacher associations (PTA) of schools have been assigned the task of finding and engaging these temporary staffs so that classes can resume immediately. A B ED degree or pass in Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) is the minimum required qualification for secondary grade teachers, the letter read to all the chief educational officers.

Further, they have been instructed to approach the nearest police station in case of obstruction from protesting teachers. Students in higher secondary sections are having a tough time in preparing for their board exams without teachers in classrooms. Now it is not the time to judge who is right or who is wrong, whether the demands put forward by the various unions are justified or not, as the timing of the indefinite strike is,