Following the withdrawal of the daily wage agreement for plantation workers, discussions will restart with Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) today.
The Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) is set to meet with RPCs to discuss the plantation workers’ wages issue mediated by Plantation Minister Naveen Dissanayake today, Cabinet Minister Mano Ganesan told Daily FT.
The issue of wages was raised at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday by National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister Mano Ganesan backed by Hill Country, New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Minister P. Digambaran.
“The President and the Prime Minister listened to the issues attentively and the Prime Minister later held separate meetings with us over the matter,” Ganesan said.
Minister of Plantations Naveen Dissanayake and Labour and Trade Union Relations Minister Ravindra Samaraweera will mediate the discussions with RPCs, he said.
“We are going to discuss the wage negotiations and we will have to explore a new way forward. This collective agreement has to go,” Ganesan insisted.
The Minister said that the plantation sector needed “total reform” and they would explore new ways to negotiate the wages of workers.
“These closed-door negotiations will have to stop,” he said
Earlier this month plantation worker trade unions and RPCs reached a settlement to increase the basic daily wage to Rs. 700, with a Rs. 100 million pledge by the Government to help companies pay three months’ wage arrears.
The trade unions, which had initially called for a Rs. 1,000 basic wage, brought down their demand to accept the offer by RPCs to increase the basic wage to Rs. 700, up Rs. 75 from their earlier offer of Rs. 625. The Collective Agreement on the wage negotiations was signed on 28 January, but was subsequently withdrawn.
Representatives from the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) and Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC) discussed the earlier Rs. 700 basic wage offered, with a Rs. 20 increase from the current Rs. 30 in Price Share Supplement (PSS), totalling a total daily wage of Rs. 750. The negotiations also saw an increase in payment for additional output by Rs. 15 per kilo.
The wage formula agreed to in January included the daily basic wage, PSS and over-kilo rate, while both attendance incentive and productivity incentive have been removed. The RPCs agreed to pay the arrears in wage payments from October, when the Collective Agreement signed in 2016 lapsed.
In a bid to ease the financial burden on the companies, Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake had agreed to allocate Rs. 150 million from Tea Board funds to finance the payments.