Plantation sector wage issue : Talks fail, protests continue | Sunday Observer

Plantation sector wage issue : Talks fail, protests continue

While the second round of talks, on October 9, between the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and the three major plantation Trade Unions (TUs) on renewing the existing biennial Collective Agreement (CA) on wages for workers had failed, the wide-spread protests by workers demanding a basic wage of Rs.1,000 per day is continuing, according to reports.

The date for the third round of talks has been fixed for tomorrow, October 15, the same day on which the current CA expires.

S. Ramanathan, Secretary General of the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC), one of the three TUs representing the workers, told the Sunday Observer that the TUs are demanding the increase of the basic wage to Rs.1,000 while the EFC was offering to increase the basic wage to only Rs. 475. The Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) led by Arumugan Thondaman MP, the pro-UNP Lanka Jathika Estate Workers’ Union (LJEWU ) and the left-wing JPTUC represent the workers, while the EFC represents the 22 plantation management companies (Regional Plantation Companies).

The current CA offers a basic wage of Rs. 500 with other conditional allowances amounting to a total daily wage of Rs. 730, which a good percentage of the workforce do not get due to several reasons such as attendance and daily norm, Ramanathan said.

The low wage had contributed to a shortage of workers on estates, with many families migrating to urban areas seeking jobs, he said, adding that some of the management companies were employing outsiders providing them transport and paying a wage of more than Rs.1,000.

On account of this fact and the rising cost of living, the TUs and the workers are justified in their demand, Ramanathan said.

The EFC was offering to increase the basic wage to Rs.575 from the current Rs.500, to which the workers and the TUs are not agreeable and if they were unable to reach a settlement, they would seek government intervention, Ramanathan said.

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