Business Times

Wage battle soon in plantations

A new round of wage negotiations between Sri Lanka plantation companies and workers – which is likely to be as troubled as the last round - has been delayed due to local council elections, trade union officials said.

The current 2-year Collective Agreement (CA) on wages between the two sides ends on 31st March 2011. It was signed in September 2009 but was with restrospective effect from March 31 of that year as the negotiations took longer than expected. Every CA starts and ends in March.

“The discussions should have already begun if not for the elections where many union officials are involved in canvasssing or campaigning,” said P. Ramanathan, President of the Joint Plantations Trade Union Centre, one of the three signatories of the last CA. Then both sides agreed to a daily wage of Rs 405 made up of a wage of Rs 285, an attendance incentive of Rs 90 and a productivity incentive of Rs 30.
The productivity incentive has become a bone of contention with some workers claiming they are not getting this due to a dispute in its computation, he said.

According to reports mainly in the Tamil press, workers are demanding an increase to Rs 700 due to high cost of living and good tea and rubber prices over the past year. But companies, according to their officials, say only low growns are fetching a good price while profits are sharply down for high and medium growns. Since low growns has a large share of the market, the prices reflect a misleading picture.

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