- Productivity and attendance incentives excluded from agreement
The Planters’ Association of Ceylon has announced that following negotiations between the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and trade unions representing Regional Plantation Company (RPC) employees, an agreement was reached for a revised collective agreement.
PA Secretary General Lalith Obeyesekere said that as per the revised agreement, a daily basic wage of Rs. 700 plus a Price Share Supplement (PSS) of Rs. 50, totalling Rs. 750, is the only remuneration a worker would receive based on the plucking norm.
Additionally, a worker would be entitled to Rs. 40 for every extra kilo plucked above the norm, the existing rate of which was Rs. 28.75.
Obeysekere stated that no attendance or productivity incentives had been included within the scope of the revised agreement, effectively capping estate workers’ earnings to Rs. 750 a day plus over-kilos.
Under the previous agreement, workers were provided a basic salary of Rs. 500, in addition to an attendance inventive (AI) of Rs. 60, a Productivity Incentive (PI) of Rs. 140 and a PSS of Rs. 30, amounting to a total daily wage of Rs. 730.
Trade unions had initially demanded a daily basic wage of Rs. 1,000 with no demands on productivity and attendance incentives. In response the RPCs advanced multiple proposals aimed at providing an option for increased earnings – potentially up to and above Rs. 1,000 – through the addition of productivity-linked incentives.
Trade unions declared strike action in December in response to the industry’s offer of a 20% increase on the basic wage up to Rs. 600, a 33% increase in the AI up to Rs. 80, and a 20% increase in ETF/EPF up to Rs. 90 in addition to the PI and PSS, leading to a maximum total daily wage of Rs. 940, amounting to an average increase of Rs. 3,375 per month per worker.
Such measures were aimed at raising productivity – an area which Sri Lanka lags behind global competitors. Plucking average in Sri Lanka’s largest competitor nations, Kenya, stood at 60 kgs, South India at 50 kgs and Assam with 36 kgs, where the norms in those nations had been set at 40 kgs, 34 kgs and 24 kgs respectively, thereby yielding much higher productivity levels.
The legal National Minimum Wage remains at Rs. 10,000 per month or Rs. 400 per day for private sector workers. In 2016, RPC workers remained among the highest paid when compared with the tea smallholder sector and garment industry , which both provided a daily wage of Rs. 590, while average daily salaries in the tea export trade and manufacturing industry amounted to Rs. 570 and Rs. 554 respectively.