Basic wage hike : Estate unions to seek Govt. intervention before TU action | Sunday Observer

Basic wage hike : Estate unions to seek Govt. intervention before TU action

Commenting on the unsuccessful talks with the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) on the Rs.1,000 wage increase demand of the plantation workers, two of the three major trade unions that are signatories to the Collective Agreement (CA) said that they would not decide on TU action without first seeking the intervention of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Minister Arumugan Thondaman who is the leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), one of the three unions, said at a media briefing on Friday that he has called for a token strike of plantation workers tomorrow to coincide with the next round of talks at the Treasury among the unions, the Treasury Secretary and the RPCs. He has said that the token strike is to exert pressure on the wage increase demand of workers.

General Secretary of the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC) S.Ramanathan one of the three unions told the Sunday Observer that they would seek the intervention of the government leaders before deciding on TU action of any kind because it is a matter concerning the livelihood of not only over 100,000 workers and their families but also the impact such continued TU actions and protests will have on the industry.

Ramanathan pointed out that on several previous occasions deadlocked talks between TUs and the management companies on renewing the biennial CA was sorted out through government intervention and that that precedent should now be followed as well.

National Organiser of the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) S.P.Wijeyakumaran the third signatory union to the CA said that although it may not be difficult for the management companies to meet the Rs.1,000 wage increase demand of the workers, they would not have recourse to TU action and protests. The government pays the companies huge amounts (Rs.1,000 million for last year) annually for the upkeep of the plantations and they have also been spared the huge expenditure on education and health since the government took over those sectors over two decades ago. But, however, they too would seek government intervention same as the JPTUC, Wijeyakumaran said.

The last CA on wage increase to the workers expired on October 15 and the four rounds of previous talks between the TUs and representatives of the (RPCs) did not make any headway on the workers’ demand of Rs.1,000.

The companies were willing to raise the daily basic wage to Rs.600, with other conditional payments to supplement it.