Sri Lanka tea plantations, unions agree on pay deal

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s publicly traded tea farms and trade unions have agreed to a new pay deal involving a daily wage of 750 rupees taking away attendance and productivity incentives, an association of estate managers said.

Unions had demanded a 1,000 rupees a day wage.

The Planters’ Association of Ceylon said the agreement was reached followings talks between trade unions and the Employer’s Federation of Ceylon, a daily wage of 700 rupees and a price share supplement of 50 rupees had been agreed making a total of 750 rupees.

A worker would get 40 rupees for every extra kilo plucked above the ‘plucking norm’ of the field, up from 28.75 rupees in the earlier deal.

In the existing deal, workers got a basic salary of 500 rupees, an attendance allowance of 60 rupees, a productivity incentive of 140 rupees and a price share supplement of 140 rupees.

Unions had declared strike action in December in response to the industry’s offer of a 20 percent increase on the basic wage up to 600, a 33 percent increase in the attendance allowance to 80 rupees, a productivity incentive and price share supplement.

The farming companies said based on productivity workers would have been able to earn more (perhaps 940 rupees) under that offer.

"Such measures were aimed at raising productivity – an area which Sri Lanka lags behind global competitors," the Planters Association said.

"Plucking average in Sri Lanka’s largest competitor nations, Kenya, stood at 60 kgs, South India at 50 kgs and Assam with 36 kgs, where the norms in those nations had been set at 40 kgs, 34 kgs and 24 kgs respectively, thereby yielding much higher productivity levels."

The PA said in the statement that 2016, RPC workers were among the highest paid with the Tea Smallholder Sector getting a daily wage of 590 rupees, while average daily salaries in the tea export trade 570 and manufacturing industry amounted to 554 rupees.

In Sri Lanka a construction worker is paid around 1000 to 1,500 rupees a day with no retirement or other benefits. (Colombo/Jan26/2018)