Storm in a teacup reaches boil­ing point

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - BUSINESS TIMES ON SUNDAY - By Su­ni­malee Dias

The Gov­ern­ment has mooted plans to draw up a wage struc­ture for es­tate work­ers; an all- in­clu­sive over Rs. 1000 with in­creases made over a 3-year pe­riod.

Plan­ta­tion Min­is­ter Navin Dis­sanayake and Labour Min­is­ter Daya Ga­m­age, dur­ing a meet­ing held on Thurs­day, have pro­posed to both the Re­gional Plan­ta­tion Com­pa­nies (RPCs) and the es­tate sec­tor trade unions to agree to a pro­posal to be paid with in­creases over a 3-year pe­riod.

Un­der this plan the basic in­crease would be upto Rs. 625 in the first year adding up to an all-in­clu­sive wage of over Rs.1000; later in the sec­ond and third years the in­creases would be to Rs.650 and Rs.675, re­spec­tively, Min­is­ter Dis­sanayake told the Busi­ness Times on Fri­day.

He noted that this would also in­clude the pro­duc­tiv­ity in­cen­tives as well of­fered to the work­ers ex­plain­ing that the in­creases in pay would im­prove ac­cord­ing to the amount of teas plucked on the es­tates.

Min­is­ter Dis­sanayake wanted the unions to be­come more rea­son­able in work­ing out a so­lu­tion to the cur­rent im­passe.

He noted that CWC leader A. Thon­daman on Thurs­day dur­ing their meet­ing had re­jected the pro­posal put for­ward by the gov­ern­ment and was still in­sist­ing on the in­crease in the basic wage of upto Rs.1000.

The min­is­ter pointed out that they also needed to be con­cerned about the in­dus­try and noted that it was not pos­si­ble to add pres­sure on the com­pa­nies.

The unions and RPCs have been sit­ting over a string of meet­ings since the past few months how­ever the mat­ter con­tin­ues to re­main un­re­solved.

RPCs have been com­plain­ing that so far due to the low tea prices they were un­able to give in­creased pay checks to work­ers and that their busi­ness was ham­pered more so due to a num­ber of rea­sons be­yond their con­trol.

Sri Lankan tea has been hav­ing is­sues over the past few years with the ban on weed­i­cide glyphosate that caused prob­lems in the sale of the prod­uct to Ja­pan due to high residue lev­els found in the teas as a re­sult of the use of other types of weed­i­cides. In ad­di­tion the re­cent sanc­tions on Iran have ham­pered trade with them.

The RPCs as a re­sult were un­likely to yield to any com­pro­mises that would ham­per ef­forts to sus­tain their long term growth even dur­ing dis­cus­sions held be­tween the com­pa­nies on Fri­day.

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