- Gazette declaring the wage increase to be issued within a week
- The sector’s new basic daily minimum wage will be doubled to Rs.900 if implemented
- RPCs withdrawing from the collective agreement with trade unions
- Minimum wage not applicable for tea smallholders
By Nishel Fernando
Despite opposition from planters and private sector tea factory owners, the Wages Board for Tea and Rubber Growing and Manufacturing Trade on Monday gave the final approval for the Labour Ministry to implement the Rs.1, 000 minimum daily wage for industry employees.
Following this Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva announced that the gazette declaring the wage increase would be issued by the Commissioner General of Labour B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi within one week.
If implemented, the new basic daily minimum wage of the sector will be doubled to Rs.900 from the earlier Rs.445. In addition, Rs.100 will also be added to the daily minimum wage as a budget allowance.
On 18th of last month when the Wages Board for Tea and Rubber Growing and Manufacturing Trade met to consider objections to the wage hike, planters and tea factory owners boycotted the meeting, forcing Chandrakeerthi to postpone the meeting after failing to meet the quorum.
However, all representatives of the Tea Factory Owners Association (SLTFOA) and RPCs attended the meeting and raised their verbal objections on Monday.
“While planters are trying to implement a flexible model that is much suited to the modern world, the unions are trying to go back to the Colonial daily wage model that is highly regimented, highly centralized and highly supervised. This was far more suited to colonial era when superintendent had control over all aspect of workers lives,” a top RPC official told Mirror Business.
The RPCs are already in the process of withdrawing from the collective agreement with trade unions. The official noted that they would only comply with the wages board regulations moving forward as they will have to manage the wage increase with the limited revenue.
Meanwhile, during the wages board meeting, a nominated party of the Ministry of Labour proposed an amendment, which the RPCs alleged it was an attempt to exclude smallholders from the wage hike. However, the attempt failed as some trade union members joined with employers opposing the move.
The proposal sought to exclude the application of the minimum wage hike for plantation workers employed in estates of 10 acres and below, which would have included 90 percent of tea smallholder estates amounting to 400,000 workers.
“We stressed that any payment should be on a uniformed basis. Otherwise, it would be discriminatory,” the official noted.
However, an official from the Labour Ministry noted that the minimum wage wouldn’t be applicable for tea smallholders as mostly family members are involved in the operations.
Meanwhile, SLTFOA officials pointed out that they would face severe implications as they are not in a financial position to finance the wage hike as they are only legally entitled for 32 percent of the sale value, while the smallholders are entitled for the remaining 68 percent.