ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Planters’ Association, representing managers of commercial tea plantations are saying that there is more support for a new wage model which can boost worker earnings and output.
Under the so-called ‘revenue share model’ a worker is assigned a plot of tea which can be plucked at any time they wish, without any supervision. Their earnings go up based on the weight of the plucked weight.
The PA says staff have increased output from 18 kilograms to 24 where the model has been tried out and earnings have exceeded 65,000 rupees.
“Several RPCs that have already implemented this system have witnessed remarkable progress, with workers earning two to three times the wage they would have otherwise received,” PA media spokesperson Roshan Rajadurai said in a statement.
“The Revenue Share Model’s flexible working hours have unlocked the potential for increased productivity in previously unharvested areas, addressing labour shortages and boosting overall plantation output.”
The unsupervised work has allowed workers to attend to their personal needs and start work late or early as they wish. Workers who are skilled can also finish work early.
Plantations managers say one reason for lower productivity in commercial plantations versus small holder tea farms is that more skilled staff who work in a group come under peer pressure from seniors in the group to slow their pace.
They can avoid the problem and work less hours or pluck more by working on their own or with family members.
The Planters’ Association says “tentative support for wage reforms expressed by a high-ranking official of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress on social media.”
“For more than a decade, the PA has steadfastly maintained that the only way for Sri Lankan plantations to achieve operational sustainability is through the abolition of the daily attendance-based model in favour of a revenue share, similar to what has been practiced on tea smallholder estates with enormous success,” Rajadurai said.
“While Trade Unions have typically been entrenched in their opposition to such reforms, we are encouraged to see the growing realisation among these stakeholders as to the value of this model for workers.
“Especially since more RPCs have been exposed to this model of working, they too are pushing Trade Unions to support these reforms to move ahead.
“We maintain that a revenue share model is the only viable way to ensure the feasibility of Sri Lanka’s tea industry without compromising on our obligation to provide our employees with a sustainable and rewarding livelihood.”
Wages can sometimes add up to 70 percent of the auction prices of tea, though individual salaries may not be high based on fixed wages promoted by unions.
The PA says there is “an alarming trend of labour migration out of the plantation sector,” with some firms facing labour shortages. (Colombo/Sept02/2023)