Hunger strike suspended | Sunday Observer

Hunger strike suspended

Estate workers demanding a minimum wage of Rs 1,000, up from the current wage of Rs 500 ended their satyagraha campaign as it entered its fourth day yesterday. The group held a protest in front of the Fort railway station to make their demands. A large number of activists and  members of civil societies supported  the workers. (Pic: Ranjith Asanka)
Estate workers demanding a minimum wage of Rs 1,000, up from the current wage of Rs 500 ended their satyagraha campaign as it entered its fourth day yesterday. The group held a protest in front of the Fort railway station to make their demands. A large number of activists and members of civil societies supported the workers. (Pic: Ranjith Asanka)

The hunger strike by a group of youth from the estates, near the Colombo Fort railway station from December 19, demanding a Rs. 1,000 basic daily wage for estate workers, was suspended on December 22. This was decided on due to many trade unions supporting the strike launched by the estate youth.

Various other trade unions agreed to support the strike. “We temporarily suspended the strike to launch it in a more organised manner in the future. If politicians, estate trade unions, estate companies and the Government do not give us a positive response by the Thai Pongal day, we will organise a bigger struggle to win the rights of estate workers” said Rev. Fr. M. Sakthivel, an estate workers’ rights activist.

Civil organisations, university students, artists and journalists have extended their support to the strike.

“In the past couple of days, Tamil politicians exploited this for their political agenda. Arumugam Thondaman said that he supported Mahinda Rajapaksa since he agreed to increase the estate workers’ daily wage up to Rs. 1,000. Vadivel Suresh, and Digambaran expressed similar views. The estate workers’ issue has turned into an auction” said Joseph Stalin of Ceylon Teachers’ Union who also pledged support to the strike.

“Although politicians can provide solutions to this problem, they have no intention to do so,” he added.

State Minister of Plantation Vadivel Suresh, said that the Plantation Owners’ Association (POA) has already given a proposal to the estate workers’ wage issue. “We are holding discussions on the proposal handed over by the POA. We cannot tell the exact amount until the collective agreement is signed. After discussions between the POA and estate trade unions by December 24 or December 27, we will be able to sign the collective agreement” the State Minister said.

The latest Collective Agreement on the salary hike of estate workers was scheduled to be signed on October 15, this year. However, there is no final agreement.

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