Plantation workers’ demand runs into a snag | Sunday Observer

Plantation workers’ demand runs into a snag

13 January, 2019

The plantation workers’ demand of a Rs 1,000 basic wage may not be granted despite several rounds of talks with the Regional Plantation Companies (RPC) and the relevant Ministries, following the workers’ month-long general strike and island-wide demonstrations in solidarity with them.

State Minister of Plantation Industries and General Secretary, Lanka Jathika Estate Workers’ Union (LJEWU), Vadivel Suresh told the Sunday Observer that at the last round of discussions at the Labour Secretariat among the three major unions, and the former Minister of Labour, Daya Gamage and Plantation Industries Minister, Naveen Dissanayake and a separate meeting with the RPC on the same day it was proposed to raise the basic wage to Rs 625 and supplement it with other conditional allowances to offset the workers’ demand of Rs 1,000.

The Unions did not agree to this proposal and a further round of talks will be held soon, State Minister Suresh said. He said that the issue would be settled this month to satisfy the workers. However, the unions along...with civil society groups have said that they would launch a protest campaign on January 23 in Colombo, to ensure that their demands are met.

Although the Collective Agreement (CA) on a review of wages to the workers is only for two years, it was suggested at the last round of talks to extend it to three years and to increase the basic wage annually by Rs 25 to reach Rs 675 in the third year. The production incentive of Rs 140, price share supplement of Rs 30 and attendance allowance of Rs 80 which are conditional payments will be added to the basic wage.

The Unions did not agree to this suggestion too, S.Ramanathan, General Secretary to the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC), one of the three signatory unions to the CA, told the Sunday Observer.

A spokesman for the plantation management companies had said at an earlier round of talks that they would meet the Rs 1,000 basic wage demand of the workers if they received the Rs 738 annual average price for a kilogram of tea at the Colombo Auction and added that going by this stand they would pay a basic wage of Rs 602 according to the current annual average price, Ramanathan said.