Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 June 2011





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‘Labour benefits should be productivity linked’

Plantation workers were given a substantial wage increase according to the current cost-of-living in the country, said Chairman Planters’ Association, Lalith Obeysekera.

Tea pluckers

He said estate sector workers were offered the best deal considering the cost-of-living in the country and added that the wage hike will have a positive impact on the growth of the plantation industry.

Plantation workers have been agitating for a reasonable wage increase considering the staggering cost-of-living which according to labour unions has sky-rocketed making life difficult for estate sector workers.

Estate sector workers requested a Rs. 750 increase in the daily wage of a worker but according to an agreement between regional plantation companies and labour unions the basic wage was increased to Rs. 380 from Rs. 285 and the total day’s wage to Rs. 515.

The JVP affiliated workers’ union and the All Ceylon Estate Workers’ Union (ACEWU) claim that the collective agreement on wages is not acceptable and accused trade unions betraying the struggle of workers for a decent wage increase.

A spokesman for ACEWU said that the wage increase is not beneficial to workers who are unable to afford the rising cost-of-living and added that certain trade unions have betrayed the might for a reasonable rise in wages.

According to the collective agreement valid for two years the total daily wage of a worker was increased from Rs. 405 to Rs. 515 with a fixed price share supplement of Rs. 30 and an attendance bonus of Rs. 105. In addition to the wages, companies agreed to pay Rs. 17 per kilo of tea leaves for pluckers exceeding the target.

Rubber tappers will be paid Rs. 25 per kilo of latex.

The productivity incentive in the agreement was replaced by the fixed price share supplement.

Rubber tapper

Obeysekera said that with the new wage hike the cost of production will increase by around Rs. 40 to Rs.50 per kilogram of tea, a 24 percent increase.

“A company will have to pay over Rs.10 billion on wages, EPF/ETF and gratuity”, he said.

“Trade unions should consider the wage increase as the best offer for workers and work towards the stability and growth of the plantation industry”, Obeysekera said.

Twenty-two regional plantation companies employ around 240,000 workers of nearly one million estate sector population.

Chairman, HVA Group and Immediate Past President of the National Chamber of Exporters Rohan Fernando said that plantation workers have been given a reasonable wage increase and added that all incentives should be linked to productivity.

“Productivity has to be enhanced for the benefit of the industry and it is only then that workers will gain”, he said.

Returning from China following a business meeting, he said the Chinese tea industry is growing at a rapid pace since employees are keen to work hard for the benefit of the industry.

Fernando said the Sri Lankan tea export revenue will reach US$ 1.5 billion this year if the tensions in Iran and Libya eases.




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