Tea Estate workers to get additional Rs. 50 from govt. for an year

Published : 11:31 am  February 14, 2019 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Sandun A Jayasekera
Tea Estate workers will get an additional Rs. 50 to the current daily wage of Rs. 750 as a budgetary allocation from the government for one year, Plantation Industries Minister Navin Disanayaka said yesterday.

This was the outcome of a discussion he had last morning with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and senior officials of the Prime Minister’s office, Minister Dissanayaka added.   

He told a news conference at the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) auditorium yesterday that the extra Rs. 50 will be paid outside the collective agreement reached on January 27 to increase the daily wage of tea plantation workers to Rs. 750.   

“The SLTB will foot the bill of Rs. 1.2 billion to pay Rs. 50 per day for tea plantation workers for one year and we expect the Treasury will reimburse it to the SLTB as it will come as a budget proposal. The payment will be started from the effective day of budget 2019,” Minister Dissanayaka said.   

Though there were repeated demands for a daily wage of Rs. 1,000 for tea plantation workers, the management of Plantation Companies flatly rejected it saying that they cannot afford it considering the production cost and other overheads of the tea industry. The wages of tea plantation workers are decided by the collective agreement signed biannually between the Labour Ministry and Trade Union Relations, Plantation Companies and Trade Unions representing tea plantation workers and therefore he could not propose to the government to increase their salaries.   

The decision to increase the salary by Rs. 50 per day was taken by listening to their demand for Rs. 1,000 per day and also on the representation made by Upcountry New Villages, Estate Infrastructure and Community Development Minister Palany Digambaram and trade unions who did not take part in the discussions that increased the salary to Rs. 750 in late January. Minister Dissanayaka said tea plantation workers could easily earn Rs. 1,000 per day because they are paid Rs 20 per kilogram of tea plucked in addition to the compulsory 18 kilograms they must pluck per day.   

“I must protect the interests of plantation companies as well as plantation workers. The plantation companies position is that they are not in a position to pay more than Rs. 750 per day under the prevailing market condition of the tea trade. They also have to pay for EPF, ETF and gratuities to tea workers. I am more than glad if we could pay tea workers even more than Rs. 1,000 per day. I believe that they deserve it. Rs. 50 per day increase to 140,000 tea estate employees was done at a time the government is facing economic hardships,” he stressed.   

Plantation sector trade launched a strike in December in response to the industry’s offer of a 20% increase on the basic wage up to Rs. 600, a 33% increase.
Pic by Kushan Pathiraja