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Sri Lanka tea plantation workers wage hike talks is in deadlock

Aug 31, 2015 2:32:21 PM - LBO.com

Sep 01, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s planters association says that higher wage demand issue of the tea planation workers is still dragging, making more trouble to both plantation companies and workers.

“Status remains as it is since no one came for a final solution,” Roshan Rajadurai, President of planter’s association of Ceylon told LBO.

“We also could not afford for almost 50 percent wage hike that workers demands , as the industry is losing profits due to lower demand of Russian and Middle East market and downfall of the tea prices,”

The planters association have offered a productivity based wage model earlier, than just increasing the wage which will incur further losses for the companies, so that high performing pluckers would earn more.

The association have proposed an 11 percent increase in the basic wage to 500 (from 450 rupees at present) for a minimum daily plucking average of 15 kg of tea leaves and each additional kilogramme plucked will be paid for at 40 rupees (an increase from the Rs. 23 paid at present), thus enabling a worker who plucks 25kg of tea leaves to earn 1,000 rupees a day which includes EPF and ETF.

However there were no good response from the union for the newly introduced system and said they need time to study the proposal.

“Union refused our proposal which we suggested to have a wage model linked to productivity. They just want us to give them the hike without considering any other factors. We can’t do that, which will have a tremendous impact on the industry,” Rajadurai told LBO.

He says wage represents about 75 percent of the total cost of a plantation company.

“We have taken loans and loans and bank are refusing to lend us anymore,”

“So we really do not have the capacity to pay.” Rajadurai added.

Re- negotiation is also deadlocked as the government still have not appointed a minister to overlook the issue and lead the trade talk.

“Nothing has happened and everything is stand still since we do not know who will be the ministers,” Marlin Goonetileke, secretary general of planter’s association of Ceylon told LBO.

Sri Lanka held its general election on 17th August and could not name a cabinet of ministers as the main parties, united national party and Sri Lanka freedom party is in a disagreement of sharing ministries which analysts says leading to a political uncertainty in the Island.

The talks began in the month of March this year with the end of collective agreement of trade union and planters.