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Plantation workers win fight for Rs.1,000 daily wage

9 February 2021 09:33 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • „Two industry wages boards approve proposal to raise minimum daily wage to Rs.1,000
  • „Labour Minister to issue gazette notification legalising decision of these boards
  • „Around 150,000 workers in tea and rubber plantations would receive wage hike
  • „Current daily wage of plantation workers stands at Rs.750
  • „Plantation sector collective bargaining process to end once gazette is issued

By Nishel Fernando

After 12 unsuccessful rounds of wage negotiations under the collective bargaining process, the plantation sector labour unions yesterday scored a major victory, forcing the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) to increase the daily minimum wage of plantation workers up to Rs.1,000, which is expected to be legalised via gazette notifications next week.

Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday revealed that the proposal to raise the daily minimum wage of plantation workers up to Rs.1,000 was passed in the wages control boards for Tea Growing and Manufacturing Trade and Rubber Cultivation and Raw Rubber Processing Trade, with 11 voting for and eight voting against.

The proposal was presented by the plantation sector labour unions. “Within one week, I will issue the gazette notification legalising the decision of these boards,” the minister said.

He noted that around 150,000 workers in tea and rubber plantations would receive the wage hike.

Accordingly, the minimum daily wage of plantation workers is expected to be increased to Rs.1,000, including Rs.900 as basic wage and Rs.100 as cost of living allowance.

The plantation sector labour unions had been demanding to increase the minimum daily wage of plantation workers up to Rs.1,000 since negotiations for the previous (2019- 2021) collective agreement. The proposal was also included in Budget 2021.

Once the gazette notification is issued, the collective bargaining process, which has been in practice for decades, is set to come to an end. The RPCs have cautioned on mid and long-term consequences for plantation workers and trade unions of such a scenario.

The minister in late January issued one-week ultimatum for both parties to reach a consensus to implement the proposed wage hike through the collective bargaining process, while simultaneously moving ahead with the process of calling the relevant wages board sessions, after securing the Cabinet approval.

However, the RPCs and labour unions failed to reach a consensus during the period.

The RPCs in one of their latest proposals offered a fixed daily wage of Rs.1,105, with the reintroduction of attendance and productivity incentives.

The breakdown of the proposed new wage structure included a basic wage of Rs.700, EPF/ETF of Rs.105, attendance incentive of Rs.150 and productivity incentive of Rs.150.

Although the RPCs and most of the plantation sector trade unions appeared to have reached a consensus on the structure to grant the Rs.1,000 daily minimum wage during most recent negotiations, the proposal by the RPCs to extend the duration of the collective agreement up to four years, from the current two years, was opposed by the trade unions. The current daily wage of plantation workers stands at Rs.750, including Rs.700 as basic pay, under the 2019-2021 collective agreement.

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