JVP moves debate on wage issue | Sunday Observer

JVP moves debate on wage issue

The JVP which moved an Adjournment motion in Parliament on Thursday (January 24) on the plight of the estate workers justified their struggle for a Rs.1000 daily wage. The JVP Parliamentarians described it as a very reasonable demand and added that there is tension at the moment in the estate sector against this injustice. However, the Government legislators assured the House that they accept the demand in principle.

Moving the Adjournment Motion, JVP Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said plantation workers walked all the way from the Boganwathalawa to Colombo and demonstrated opposite the Ministry of Plantations demanding the Rs.1000 rupee daily wage. He said there had been six rounds of talks but the Government has not yet been able to solve the problem.

Minister of Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development P. Thigambaram said of all the workers in the country, estate workers draw the lowest daily wage of Rs.500. They live in line rooms and it is only after the incumbent Government came to power that they could get houses. He said the Employers Federation of Ceylon discusses only with three trade unions and as such we are not in a position to talk to them. In fact, they are deceiving the estate workers. Discussions by these three trade unions have failed and it is time for the three trade unions to jointly discuss and reach a consensus. UNP Parliamentarian M.Thilakarajah pointed out that only 30 percent of the upcountry tea is exported and the remainder 70 percent is exported by low country tea cultivators. However, 70 percent of the tea lands are in the upcountry. This, the MP said is a disparity.

UPFA MP Arumugan Thondaman who joined the debate said that at present the number of estate workers has dropped by one half. We only demand a Rs.1000 daily wage for estate workers and no food. At present, plantation companies simply deceive the plantation workers without paying their EPF and ETF. UPFA Parliamentarian Muthu Sivalingam said they won’t give up their struggle until the demand is met. UNP Badulla District MP Aravindh Kumar said the plantation companies exploit the labour of estate workers. Being in air-conditioned rooms, the plantation company owners give a mere pittance of Rs.500 daily wage to the workers but some of their officials draw over Rs.500000 as their monthly salary. Non Cabinet Minister of Special Area Development V.Radhakrishnan said it is not true that the plantation companies are running at a loss. At present estate workers of Indian origin live a very miserable life.

UNP Parliamentarian Velu Kumar said when ever this matter of national importance is discussed, the relevant Ministers are not in the Chamber. It has not been able to sort out this problem due to the collective agreement signed by state and private sector plantation companies.

UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that steps should be taken to cancel the collective agreement signed with the plantation companies. JVP MP Sunil Handunneththi said the estate workers live the life of slaves in plantations and no Government has done anything to get rid of the slavish mentality.

Responding to the queries raised by the Government and Opposition lawmakers, Non Cabinet Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations Ravindra Samaraweera told the House that since the 1990s the wage increases of plantation workers are granted in keeping with the collective agreement between them and the company owners. The salaries had been increased once in every two years. However, one party put forward a demand after the 2015 elections for a higher salary. That is the origin of present problem. The existing collective agreement should have been renewed in 2018.