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Dole Lanka workers go bananas over decision to terminate manpower company

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An arbitrary decision taken by banana exporter Dole Lanka Ltd. to terminate current contracts with a labour supply company has given rise to concerns over job security among the workforce employed in Buttala plantation, prompting workers to take trade union action.

The decision to suddenly terminate the service contract Dole Lanka had with The Southern Force Ltd. to supply labour for their Wekannda-Buttala banana plantation has created uncertainty among workers, Ceylon Industrial Workers Union General Secretary Chamara Nanayakkara told Daily FT.

The 400 workers who are paid bi-monthly did not receive their salaries last Friday due to this issue, he said.

Dole Lanka Ltd. was not immediately available for comment. When contacted, their Finance Director Tilak Gunerathe said he was unable to comment on the matter as it did not fall within his purview.

The company is said to have awarded the contract to supply labour to the plantation to a different company, which has a history of labour disputes with other companies in the country, Nanayakara claimed. However, he claims that Dole Lanka has instructed workers to accept their payments through the new service company, which the workers have refused.

“The matter has been brought to the attention of the Labour Commissioner in Buttala, and we expect have a discussion with the authorities soon. If the company does not want to take us through the manpower company, then they should absorb us. We do not want to join any other manpower company which has already got a bad reputation for fraudulent activities,” Nananyakkara said.

He said the workers will stage a protest within the plantation today, with hopes of reaching a settlement.

“If we do not get a solution, we plan to march to the town and then to Colombo,” Nanayakkara claimed.

The service provider The Southern Force claimed that their contract has been terminated without prior notice, citing an issue which occurred in 2012. 

The Southern Force Managing Director Ishan Gunasekara claimed that the dispute which Dole was already aware of has already been settled through the Court.

“Their target is to avoid paying gratuity for the workers. If Dole Lanka breaks service of the workers, then they will not have to pay gratuity,” he claimed. Gunasekara also alleged that another dispute with the same company which is under investigation may have also influenced the arbitrary decision.

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