Friday, October 02, 2009

Fairness in SPC pay hikes for university and college teachers

A month ago, I asked how fair the SPC pay hikes have been at IIXs and universities. I tried to answer this question by looking at the ratio of the 'raw' salaries in December 2005 (before SPC) and in January 2006 (after SPC).

At IIXs, the pay hikes are roughly the same at all levels -- right from assistant professors all the way up to full professors (let's leave OCAPs for the moment, as they have just been created).

However, this is not so for the faculty in our universities: while pay hikes for professors are in line with those at IIXs, they are far lower for the lecturers and readers. [see that post for the details].

This led me to conclude that, if anything, it is the university folks -- especially the junior faculty -- that had a greater right to go on strike over the SPC implementation. But we never saw our university faculty rising up in protest! Why?

We have an answer now. Over at Kafila, Sunalini Kumar discusses the politics of SPC pay hikes, and what they mean for junior faculty in our universities and colleges. There's a lot in that post, but let me excerpt the key section on the divide between junior and senior faculty [with bold emphasis added by me]:

... he recent Pay Commission has greatly redressed the issue of pay, a fact that has been repeated ad nauseum in the media, but the little known fact is that the substantially higher pay applies only to senior faculty (those who in government parlance are called Pay Band 4), whereas younger faculty in Pay Band 3 have seen only a marginal increase in pay. More disturbingly, the arbitrary and punitive service conditions introduced by the UGC make promotions dependent on acquiring a certain number of points in your career, which in turn are dependent on conditions that are for the most part only very remotely concerned with college teaching and academics, and more importantly, nearly impossible for the average college teacher in India to fulfill. Explaining the full contours of this awful new monster the UGC has created, and what it will do to a profession I love more than anything in the world will require a full-length post in itself.

The main point here is, as far as the government is concerned, the combination of the sudden yawning gap between Pay Band 3 and 4, and the new service conditions together add up to a political and financial masterstroke. By giving a huge bonanza to Pay Band 4, the government has ensured their full support and acquiescence, and created a difference of interests between them and younger faculty. This was important from the government’s point of view, since it is the senior faculty who have been the most vociferous in the teachers movement, given their greater bargaining power and experience. Not surprisingly, they have dominated teachers’ unions in order to unanimously agree to the new pay package offered this time. As for service conditions regarding promotion especially, most Pay Band 4 teachers are past their final promotion, and many near retirement. So it is difficult to imagine that they would be unduly concerned; so effectively, those affected by the new service conditions are new and younger teachers in Pay band 3. The younger teachers have always been more vulnerable; most have taught as ad hoc or temporary faculty for many years, a humilating and debilitating experience…more so if one is in a state university, where contractual employment is very common. They will be rendered even more vulnerable and fragmented by these new conditions (one of whose principal effects will be to pitch individual teacher against individual teacher in order to acquire points for promotion). Hence, they will find it difficult if not impossible to mobilise themselves politically in unions to oppose any unjust moves by the government. The long term calculation of the government seems to be this – get rid of the political threat represented by the older faculty by giving them more than they expect, then bring in near-impossible conditions for promotion, so that very few of those currently in Pay Band 3 make it to Pay Band 4, ensuring that the loss of revenue incurred in the dramatically increased salary of Pay Band 4 will be more than offset in coming years with these older faculty retiring, and most of the younger faculty languishing at Pay Band 3 for the remainder of their careers.

However, none of these facts will ever make it to the front pages or the television scenes. Because, hidden beneath upper class and middle class notions about teaching as a noble profession and of ‘becoming behaviour’ and so on is scant understanding of the real reasons for the rot in education in this country and barely concealed contempt for college and university teachers. [...]

There you have it: the faculty unions' most vociferous members -- senior faculty -- shortchanged the interests of their junior colleagues.

* * *

I once ranted about resource-hogging senior faculty in our elite institutions -- basically, IIXs. If the situation is bad in IIXs, it's far worse in our universities, where senior faculty also enjoy enormous power over their junior colleagues.

Thus, Sunalini Kumar's version of events doesn't surprise me at all.


  1. Anonymous said...

    May be: A rant dedicated to MHRD

    Strangely, I find myself cheering for Mr. Sibal, on the eve of his trip abroad.

    May be, he will give permission to the foreign universities to set up campus in India.

    May be, these universities will set up campus in places that are more easy to live in instead of godforsaken agri-fields given to IITs based on political compulsions.

    May be, they will pay well.

    May be, in a few years, I will get a nice paying job in academia in India, since I don't care about "job security".

    And for those that do........

    May be, the IITs will be forced to raise salaries as a result of all this.

  2. Sunalini Kumar said...

    May be, NOT.