- Plantations Minister says despite law suit, Govt. will push implementation
- Points out inclusion in Budget made daily wage a policy matter
- Stands ready to use legal and policy measures to carry out hike
The Government yesterday said it would not walk back the policy decision to raise the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs. 1,000 and stands ready to provide support to implement the measure, despite legal action taken by a group of plantation companies.
Cabinet Co-Spokesman and Plantations Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana told the weekly Cabinet briefing that the Rs. 1,000 daily wage was included into the Budget for 2021 and therefore it was the responsibility of the Government to ensure it was implemented.
“The Government is ready to take legal and other policy level measures to ensure the daily wage increase is implemented. This issue has been discussed for years and the Labour Minister has worked very hard to ensure that it is finally carried out. As a Government we stand by this policy,” he added.
On Monday 20 plantation companies filed a writ application before the Court of Appeal seeking an order to invalidate the gazette notification issued last week to increase the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs. 1,000.
The application names the Labour Minister, Ministry Secretary and the Wages Board as respondents. The petitioners argue that increasing the plantation wage by the Labour Ministry puts the industry at risk by escalating costs to unsustainable levels and therefore seek to invalidate the gazette issued on 10 March.
In response to the application, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told reporters he was confident the Court of Appeal would uphold the decision of the Government as it was made with the best interests of the plantation workers at heart. De Silva also said he stood ready to bring in legislation to increase the daily wage as an Act via Parliament if necessary.
The gazette was issued last week by Labour Ministry Secretary M.P.D. Mapa after the Wages Board cleared the way on 1 March. Under the gazette, the basic wage has been raised to Rs. 900 and workers will be given an additional Rs. 100 as a budgetary allowance. The new daily wage was to be applicable from 5 March.
In January, a Cabinet paper tabled by the Labour Minister received approval for the salary issue to be decided upon by the Wages Board as the collective agreement was accepted to have lapsed at the end of January.
In February, the matter was placed before the Wages Board after nearly 14 rounds of talks between the trade unions, RPCs and the Employers Federation, talks that had gone on for over two years and still failed to reach an agreement.