Colombo, October 19 (NIA): Although Sri Lanka’s estate workers and planters agreed on Tuesday on an LKR 110 daily wage hike ,the Planters’s Association President Roshan Rajadurai has said that the LKR 730 per day wage (which is a LKR 110 hike) is not sustainable unless the planters are given support though allocations in the national budget.
The agreement was facilitated by, and signed in the presence of, top ministers of the Sri Lankan government including the influential Strategic Development Minister Malik Samarawickrama.
Since a wage hike had been promised in the run up to the July 2015 parliamentary elections, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has a moral responsibility to see that the hike is implemented. It may have to make budgetary provisions for it.
The workers’ agitation, which had been on since September 26, had failed to secure what the workers wanted, namely, LKR 1000 per day. The unions had promised them that during the July 2015 parliamentary elections. But given the tough stand taken by the planters over the last 18 months, the workers seem reconciled to a more moderate hike.
Ceylon Workers’ Congress leader Muthu Sivalingam told Express that though the unions promised LKR 1000, the current parlous state of the plantations in Sri Lanka does not allow a huge pay hike. Rubber prices have plummeted in the world market and the market for Sri Lankan tea has shrunk, he pointed out.
The workers have been getting LKR 620 per day paid, mainly on attendance basis, and had been wanting an LKR 400 hike on the same basis. But the managements said that they could consider an LKR 100 hike provided it is linked to productivity. Talks got deadlocked.
According to Sivalingam, now, the workers will get LKR 730 with an additional LKR 140 determined by productivity norms.
About 225,000 of the island nation’s one million estate workers are covered by the Collective Agreement. The rest work in small plantations not run by plantation companies as such.