Plantation workers continue agitation for wage increase

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 06 December 2006, 11:55 GMT]
Hill country workers as part of their on going agitation for reasonable increase in daily wages began striking since Tuesday morning . Thousands of workers from tea estates in Norwood, Puliyawatte, Dickoya, Bogawantalawa, Saami Malai, Maskeliya, Norton Bridge, Wattawala,Kottagala, and Talawakelle, belonging to various trade unions, setting aside policy differences, joined hands to voice their protest, paralyzing tea production in the island

Elsewhere, workers from Dayagama West, Chandirikamam, Wawelli, Goodwill, Hamwood, New Portmore, Torrington, Albion, and Belmoral wearing black wrist bands, having obtained police permission, staged peaceful protests at key road intersections raising slogans relating to their demand for pay raise. Black flags were hung across the estates in the area, sources in the area said.

Thousands of plantation workers in Nanu Oya also joined hands in the strike demanding they should be paid at least 300 Rupees as their daily wage.

The entire work force from the tea estates in Desbord, Clarendon, Glaxo, Radella, Uda Radella too joined the boycott bringing allactivities to a stand still.

As the news of the work stoppage spread more than 20,000 workers from Panawatte, Leyland, Algolla, Udappana, Abila, Wee Oya, Polidagama Ethoolaploa, Karuppana,Lavella, Kelani, Giriboruwa, Ganeppalla tea estates joined the strike.

Another ten thousand workers from the estates in Sorghum, Kalugalla, Nifmel Port, Rosaylle, Sanguwary, Delta, Attabage, New Peacock, Roxley, Old Peacock, Nayapana, Stephan joined the protest, sources said.

Hundreds workers from Vaadi Estate, Pussellawa too joined the ranks of the striking workers, latest reports said.

Workers were protesting against the dead-lock in salary negotiations between the Trade Unions of the employees and the Employers Federation, and appealed for speedy resolution to their wage demand.

During the 1985-1986 time frame when the tea estates were privatized, the trade unions comprising the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) and Joint Plantation Trade Union Committee (JPTUC) made a "Collective Agreement (CA)" with the Employers Federation for wage increase negotiations.

In the 1992 gazetted agreement, by Minister Gamini Dissanayake, only Unions with membership of more than 60,000 workers were included in the CA.

This agreement continues even now to the detriment of the estate workers where workers cannot exercise true union power, and other unions including UPF are excluded from this negotiating process, UPF leader Chandrasekaran told TamilNet in an earlier interview.

Currently, the total membership of all Unions have fallen below 225,000 from the earlier figures of 425,000, and that none of the Trade Unions in the CA have membership of more than 60,000, UPF media reports said.


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