- Challenge Labour Commissioner to take legal action against state-managed estates
- JEDB and SLSPC said to be not having adequate funds to finance wage increase
- Labour Ministry says all stakeholders will abide by minimum wage rule once verdict on petitions filed by RPCs delivered
By Nishel Fernando
The Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) yesterday challenged the Commissioner General of Labour to pursue the necessary legal action against the state-managed estates for non-payment of the daily minimum wage mandated for the rubber and tea plantation workers.
“The Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) and Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC) have not paid the mandated minimum wage of Rs.1,000 to their plantation workers. We learned that they have only paid the Rs.855 daily wage for their workers,” a top official of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) told Mirror Business.
Labour Ministry Secretary M.P.D. Mapa issued a gazette notification last month increasing the daily minimum wage of the tea and rubber plantation workers to Rs.1,000, with effect from March 5, 2021, after securing the approval from the relevant Wages Control Boards.
Following the issuance of the gazette notification, 20 RPCs filed a petition in the Court of Appeal, asking the court to quash the decision of the Wages Boards to increase the daily minimum wage by way of Writ of Certiorari, while also seeking an interim order suspending the payment until the Writ petitions were heard.
However, the Court of Appeal refused to grant an interim order suspending the payment until the Writ petitions filed were heard. The cases are fixed for hearing on May 5 and 25.
“Pending court decision, we ensured the payment of the Rs.1000 minimum daily wage for our workers. We have always been law-abiding corporates. Now, we are awaiting the Labour Commissioner to take legal actions against the violators of the legally mandated minimum wage, as the Labour Commissioner General himself publicly pledged. So far, we haven’t heard any cases being filed by the commissioner,” the PA official said.
Commissioner General of Labour B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi wasn’t available for comment on the claim made by the PA official.
However, according to government sources, the JEDB and SLSPC are said to be not having adequate funds to finance the wage increase.
A Labour Ministry official assured that the necessary actions would be taken to ensure the implementation of the mandated minimum wage by all stakeholders, once the Court of Appeal issues the final decision after hearing the petitions filed by the RPCs.
Meanwhile, a vast majority of private tea factories haven’t also paid the mandated minimum daily wage to their workers, Mirror Business learns.
The wages of the plantation workers who earned more than Rs.1,000 with the incentives have now come down to Rs.1,000, following the decision of the Wages Boards.
The PA official lamented that the blanket increase in the daily minimum wage to Rs.1,000 is an injustice for productive and hard-working workers.
Commenting on a possible takeover of the RPCs by the government, he noted that anyone, including the government, is able to take over the management or ownership of the RPCs by taking the controlling interest of the RPCs on the Colombo Stock Exchange.
“That’s the only way that the government can take over the management of the RPCs. It’s a simple procedure,” he added.