Plantation unions to meet Treasury Secy. on wage hike | Sunday Observer

Plantation unions to meet Treasury Secy. on wage hike

While the one-month-long plantation workers’ protests on their Rs.1,000 basic wage demand and the low worker turn out after their ‘Deepavali’ celebrations on November 6 continue to cripple the industry, the three major plantation Trade Unions (TU) are making arrangements to meet Treasury Secretary S.R.Attygalle for discussions on settling the issue soon.

TU sources told the Sunday Observer that further delay in settling the issue would not only affect the industry badly but also the livelihood of the workers.

The last biennial Collective Agreement on wage increase for workers expired on October 15 and the four rounds of talks between the TUs and representatives of the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) did not make any headway on the workers’ demand.

The RPCs were willing to raise the daily basic wage to Rs.600 with other conditional payments to supplement it, but the workers demand a basic wage of Rs.1000 to commensurate the current cost of living, the sources said adding that many tea estates remain abandoned and the grim situation is likely to continue unless the workers’ demand is met early.

The fourth round of talks at the Ministry of Plantation Industries on November 1 was not successful since the RPCs were rigid on their stand that the annual average price of export-tea in the Colombo auction was not conducive to meet the demand of workers, he said.

CWC leader and the Minister of Upcountry New Villages, Estate Infrastructure and Community Development Arumugan Thondaman who was not available for comment was quoted in reports as saying that he is due to meet the Treasury Secretary with representatives of the RPCs to expedite the signing of the Collective Aagreement. CWC parliamentarian MuthuSivalingam told the Sunday Observer that they had sought the intervention of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for an early settlement on the matter. General Secretary of the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC ), one of the three unions in the TUJC S.Ramanathan said although the RPCs maintained that the current price of a kg of traditional grade tea in the Colombo auction is Rs.570 and unless they got the annual average price of Rs.738 per kg they would not be able to meet the Rs.1000 basic wage demand of the workers.

But the TUs had found that the annual average price of a kg of tea from January to October this year is Rs.602 and as per the ratio of the RPCs, they should be able to pay a basic wage of Rs.815.

With the increased profits levels of the companies they should be able to meet the Rs.1000 basic wage demand of workers, Ramanathan said.