Plantation workers’ wage issue : Talks on Collective Agreement to resume | Sunday Observer

Plantation workers’ wage issue : Talks on Collective Agreement to resume

6 January, 2019

The Plantation Workers’ Unions and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) will meet early next week in Colombo to resume negotiations on the Collective Agreement (CA) that lapsed last October and the wage hike demand of workers, which brought operations in many estates across the country to a grinding halt.

A Collective Agreement on the wage of workers is signed every two years between plantation unions and Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs).

According to a senior official of the EFC, the meeting is due to be held among the representatives of the Ceylon Workers Congress, the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Unions and the Joint Plantation Trade Union Confederation.

“The EFC is confident that all parties will be able to reach a solution to the issue soon,” EFC Director General Kanishka Weerasinghe said.

The tug-of-war over the Rs. 1,000 daily wage hike demand between plantation workers unions and plantation companies has been persisting for the past three months culminating in workers taking to the streets urging authorities to meet their demand.

However, there is a silver lining for the long drawn out battle, as workers have softened their stance and have agreed to reach an agreement on the basic wage of workers. Plantation workers, according to EFC sources, have shown interest in reaching an agreement considering offers by companies. However, the nitty-gritty of the offers are to be made known as no party to the agreement was willing to comment.

Weerasinghe said there is progress in the negotiations, however, both parties will have to make compromises if a viable solution is to be reached.

Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) Trade Union Advisor Muthusivalingam said the CWC is hopeful of a positive outcome at the next negotiation with a win-win solution to both parties.

“Workers got back to work despite their demand being turned down on several occasions. We have been asking for a reasonable wage increase, considering the high cost of living,” he said.

“We have held discussions with all stakeholders but failed to reach an agreement. However, trade unions are confident that their demand will be met,” Muthusivalingam said.

Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) Plantation Services Group Chairman Roshan Rajadurai said the demand for a Rs. 1,000 wage increase cannot be met in the backdrop of the dip in global tea prices. RPCs have been insisting on a sustainable wage increase model to sustain the industry.

A spokesman for the Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA), the umbrella organisation for the 22 Regional Plantation Companies, told the media that the RPCs are unable to meet the expectations of the workers until there is improvement in global tea prices. PA officials said RPCs had offered the best package for workers whose take home salary when added up with all incentives comes up to Rs. 940. Doubling the basic wage from the current Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 is unaffordable to RPCs who are facing problems from many fronts, they said.