Thiruvananthapuram: A referendum will be conducted by the Education Department for granting recognition to the teachers' unions active in government-aided schools in Kerala.
Though the Kerala High Court in 2010 had issued a verdict favouring referendum for recognition of unions, the state government had delayed the process till now.
The latest order issued by the Education Department clearly specifies that the referendum should be held as per the rules and provisions of Kerala Education Rules (KER).
The high court had given the verdict on a petition filed by the National Teachers Council (Deshiya Adhyapaka Parishad) which in a petition claimed that despite having more than 10,000 members the government had not granted recognition to the union.
What the rules state
The Chapter 14, Rule 51 of KER stipulates that if unions have support from 25 percent people whom they represent, they could be given recognition. The process regarding granting recognition has been specified in the explanation of Rule 52.
The latest order of the Education Department states that the referendum may be conducted on the basis of these rules. The high court had directed the government to restrict the number of teachers unions. At present there are 32 teachers unions.
It has been observed that due to the large number of unions it is not possible to listen to the views of all representatives when meetings are convened to discuss crucial issues related to the Education Department. Union representatives don't get enough time to put across their points at such important meetings.
Is the referendum feasible?
At the same time the officials of the Education Department share their apprehensions regarding the practicality of referendum in the present situation.
The employees unions in KSEB and KSRTC are given recognition through referendum. The unions which manage to obtain the support of more than 15 percent employees have been granted recognition.
Separate unions for various categories
There are 1,65,652 teachers in state government-aided schools. Under the present circumstances if a general referendum is held then only two or three unions would get recognition.
The KER provisions clearly state that separate recognition needs to be given to the unions of each category of employees. Such categories include headmasters of primary and secondary schools as well as specialist craft teachers.
There is clear provision that the staff unions should not engage in political or religious activities.