Financial Times

Plantation companies agree to fix wage problems

By Dilshani Samaraweera

Plantation companies have agreed to fix wage implementation problems in the recently signed Collective Agreement.

Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) and the three main estate sector trade unions signed a new Collective Agreement on wages, in September. However trade unions said the agreement was not properly implemented. This week the RPCs agreed to address wage implementation problems brought up by trade unions, including the payment of wage arrears.

“We came to an agreement with the Employers Federation of Ceylon and the Chief Executive Officers of the RPCs that the issues brought up under the implementation of the Collective Agreement, will be addressed,” said the Administration Secretary of the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union, M. S. A. H. Mohideen.

Although the plantation companies were to pay wage arrears according to the new wages from April 1, unions say the estates did not do this. “The companies agreed to pay 50% of the arrears this week, by October 16, and the balance of the arrears will be paid before January 2010,” said Mr Mohideen.

Some estates were also accused of manipulating the newly increased wage payments by increasing the daily norm. The norm is the amount of green leaf that should be plucked for the day. Plucking above the norm would qualify workers for an Rs 30 per day productivity incentive. However, some companies, since the signing of the new Collective Agreement, have increased the norm. This effectively disqualified workers from earning the productivity incentive. In addition, workers that do not come under the norm, such as kanganis, watchers, bungalow servants and crèche workers were not paid the productivity incentive at all.

“The companies agreed that the norm will not be increased in any estate. They also agreed to pay the productivity incentive to all the other categories of workers that are not paid according to the norm system,” said Mr Mohideen.

The September wage agreement increased the total wage package of a plantation worker from a maximum Rs 290 per day previously, to Rs 405 per day. This is expected to increase industry costs by about Rs 6 billion per year.

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