Planters claim death threats, refuse direct negotiations with unions

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • Warn of vacating estates if law and order not restored; points to responsibility of the State

The Planters Association of Ceylon (PA) yesterday claimed their members were under death threat from trade unions, and refused to directly engage in the Collective Agreement wage negotiations, while insisting that they will vacate estates if the situation worsens.

“Now the current situation has taken a very serious turn. At the outset, the workers started the trade union action, but they have now gone to the level of making death threats to the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon plantation wage negotiation committee,” EFC Plantation Services Group Chairman Roshan Rajadurai told journalists yesterday.

“There were threats and assaults to some of the workers in the estates. There have been threats on staff and management. You cannot sit on a table and get death threats. We have told the EFC that we are not willing to sit and negotiate directly with people of this calibre. If they push further, we will all resolve that we will go to another forum, probably end up at arbitration. However, if there is any threat to our staff or our management we will vacate,” he added.

Noting RPCs are protecting a national industry that contributes immensely to the growth of the economy, and provides livelihood to over one million people, he said it was the responsibility of the Government and the law enforcement authorities to provide a safe environment for its managers and staff to work in those plantations.

“The Government must ensure security, law, and order, because our management and staff are working in isolation. We have worked with the workers for generations. Workers have been absolutely marvellous and looked after the managers, even during insurrections. It was the workers and managers who protected each other. If there is a fire, death, birth, landslides, long before anybody comes to the site, our managers were on the spot, and that is why the labourers still respect. They have very good understanding, and they will never let us down. It is unfortunate that this workers can be incited and they are impressionable and they can be led to violent situations — that is why a good leadership is required,” he added.

When asked if the ongoing worker strike is instigated by any political agenda, Rajadurai however declined commenting and said not to mix politics and economics.

“We are just professional planters. We have continued this 150-year-old industry with great care and responsibility. Let the professional managers take care of the plantation, and politicians manage their politics. We are professional managers, and amongst us we have all the expertise to continue our businesses amidst challenges. We have a responsibility to take care of the people that are working under us. We need to protect the workers, the industry, and the country’s economy. The planter and the worker has a fantastic binding and nobody can break that,” Rajadurai emphasised.

Although some of the estate workers resumed work after a few days of the trade union action, he said during the past couple of days, no one had gone to work due to the threats and assaults.

When asked if it was just one trade union that is conducting the workers strike, the PA said that all the trade unions are negotiating together, collectively.

“Having trade union actions are fine, but no one has the right to aggravate it to a life-threatening situation,” he stressed.

EFC Deputy Director General Prasad De Silva said they were hopeful of coming to an agreement on the Collective Agreement with the three major plantation trade unions Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), Lanka Jathika Estate Workers’ Union (LJEWU), and Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC) in the near future.

“We have informed the three unions and very soon, perhaps during this week or next week, we hope to meet and discuss to come to a conclusion,” he added.