Plan to cut salary by half or to prune staff strength is met with stiff resistance from teaching, non-teaching staff

Annamalai University’s proposal to either cut the staff salary by half or to prune the staff strength to tide over the tight financial situation is met with stiff resistance from the teaching and non-teaching staff.

When Vice-Chancellor M. Ramanathan mooted the idea at a specially convened meeting on Wednesday, the Joint Action Council (JAC) of the teaching and non-teaching staff greeted it with disdain and vociferous opposition.

The JAC had categorically stated that its members would not concede even a single rupee cut in the salary. It is of the firm view that the management is solely responsible for the crisis for which the staff should not be made a scapegoat.

As the proposal did not find favour with the JAC, there was a ruckus in the meeting and the members booed and prevented the Vice-Chancellor from boarding his car. It took some time before the tempers cooled down.

Dr. Ramanathan told TheHindu that the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations had imposed a heavy financial burden on the university. The salary of the teaching staff went up by 30 per cent and that of the non-teaching staff by 20 per cent, and, the dearness allowance rose from 23 per cent to 72 per cent.

Before the pay revision, a member of the teaching faculty would retire with a superannuation benefit of Rs. 9 lakh but now it had gone up to Rs. 30 lakh, a whopping increase of Rs. 21 lakh.

As such, the university would have to settle substantial amount as arrears for 151 retired personnel. Dr. Ramanathan also said that only 70 per cent of the total expenditure of the university was met by tuition fees.

Since the level of tuition fees and the student strength in all the programmes had already reached a saturation point, that could not be raised any further. In arts and humanities programmes, the staff outnumbered the students.

On the distance education front too, the university faced a problem. As per the new rules, the Directorate of Distance Education of the university should have to operate only within the jurisdiction of Tamil Nadu and such a restriction had resulted in a steep fall in student enrolment to the extent of 35 per cent.

Therefore, to bail out the university, it was proposed to pay 50 per cent of the salary to the staff until the financial situation improves and later settle the difference amount. Since the JAC was not amenable to the proposal, it would be placed before the Syndicate for its consideration. Dr. Ramanathan said that to tackle the situation, the university would follow the well laid-out guidelines.

Coordinator and Joint Coordinator of the JAC R. Udaiachandran and S. Mathialagan told this Correspondent that the university had fallen into the financial rut owing to its indiscriminate recruitment policy.

As against the government’s sanctioned strength of 860 teaching faculty and 1,820 non teaching staff, the figures had now touched 3,600 and 9,400 respectively. The proposal of salary cut had come as a rude shock to the entire faculty and the non-teaching staff. Depending upon the further move of the university, the JAC would chart out its course of action, they added.