Friday, 11 January 2019 06:11

Plantation Minister tells RPC to pay Rs. 1000

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In an attempt to break the deadlock in wage negotiations between Regional Plantation Companies and the Estate Trade Unions, Plantation Minister Navin Dissanayake yesterday asked the employers to pay the demanded basic wage of Rs. 1000. The Minister, along with Labour Minister Daya Gamage, held separate meetings with

Ministers Navin Dissanayake (left) and Daya Gamage at the meeting
representatives from both RPCs and trade unions in the Parliamentary complex, to negotiate a settlement for the ongoing salary issue of the plantation workers after trade unions called on the Minister to intervene in the negotiations.

According to a statement issued by Minister Dissanayake’s media unit, the Minister told the Plantation companies that a payment of Rs. 1000 day’s pay is possible, although the plantation companies have proposed Rs. 940 as a daily wage, inclusive of all allowances and incentives. However, the RPC representatives have requested time to respond to the request after discussing with their members.

The Planters’ Association was not immediately available for comment.

Plantation worker unions and Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the largest trade union in the sector and signatory to the Collective Agreement under which the wage increases are effected every two years, demanded a Rs. 1000 minimum wage last year, leading to a two-week trade union action as well.

Representing CWC, Muttu Sivalingam said that no agreement could be reached as the plantations were only able to offer Rs. 625 as the basic wage. This was an increase of Rs. 25 from the discussions held earlier in the week, led by the Employers’ Federation.

“But this is inclusive of attendance bonus and production incentive. What we wanted was a basic wage of Rs. 1000. They have not even come close to this amount,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Employers’ Federation Chairman held discussions with both trade unions and Planters’ Association, but were not able to come to a settlement. The trade unions also met with Minister Daya Gamage regarding the issue. Meanwhile, CWC leader A. Thondaman also had an informal meeting with the Minister as well.

During the latest round of meetings chaired by Dissanayake, trade unions maintained that they should receive a Rs. 1000 basic wage, and were not willing to settle.

Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC) General Secretary S. Ramanathan however was hopeful that the negotiations will soon reach a settlement, despite yesterday’s discussions ending without an agreement.

During the discussion, he told the Minister that even going by the wage proposal made by the Plantation Companies, the basic wage should be more than what has been offered at present.

“They say that only if the average price in tea auction is Rs. 730 can they can pay Rs. 1000. Going by the formula, then, they should be paying us at least Rs. 850, as the average price last year was Rs. 602, and even if the average price is Rs. 570 then the payment should still be more. I pointed this out to the Minister as well,” he said.

Noting that the offer of Rs. 940 is inclusive of all incentives and benefits, which are conditional, Ramanathan said the trade union demand for a Rs. 1000 basic wage remains unchanged.

(FT)

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