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Sri Lanka plantation wage hike still under discussion: minister

ECONOMYNEXT – The decision to raise the daily wage of plantation workers to 1000 rupees per day is still under discussion, Minister of Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture, Ramesh Pathirana has said.

“We have conducted three discussions with the Planters’ Association so far,” Pathirana told Parliament on Wednesday.

“There are some issues from their end about income and expenses, we have to consider, therefore it is still under discussion”

Pathirana said the association, which represents managers of private plantations companies have agreed with the cabinet decision to improve the standards of living of the plantation workers.

“We have not arrived at a final decision yet,” Pathirana said.

State Minister for Tea Industry Development, Kanchana Wijesekara said: “At the last meeting with the president’s secretary P.B. Jayasundera, the planters’ association came to an understanding to raise the wages from March onwards.

Wijesekara said some of the main issues to raise the wage are due to the various agreements signed during the tenure of the previous government. Workers are under a two year collective agreements with plantations companies.

Wijesekara said the government has asked to give the raise from the basic salary.

“Associations asked our permission to give the raise including other allowances,” said Wijesekara.

“But as the government, we stand strong with our decision.”

Sri Lanka’s plantations were expropriated by the state, and became burdens on the taxpayer with salaries paid by the state. They were then privatized and are now paying leases rentals to the state.

Wijesekara said another issue pointed out by the associations was shortfalls in income due to low productivity.

He said as a solution the government has decided to provide lands to the farmers who are interested in planting trees.

“It can be state-owned Elkaduwa, SPMC or Kurunegala plantations” Wijesekara said.

“We are ready to provide two to five acres of lands under long term leasing facilities for the farmers who are interested in the industry”

Wijesekara said the government will take immediate action after the general elections.

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered plantations workers’ wages to be hiked to 1000 rupees a day from March 01, on January 14, 2020 at the cabinet meeting.

Plantation companies and workers signed a collective agreement in February 2019 under the previous government, agreeing to a daily wage of 700 rupees, up from 500 rupees.

The previous government later said a supplementary 50 rupees a day would be provided with taxpayer money for a year.

Plantations companies said the 300 rupees a day wage hike would cost about 350-450 million rupees per company or about 9 billion rupees a year for all companies.

There are 20 regional plantations companies of which 18 are publicly traded. (Colombo/Feb 06/2020)

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