Plantation workers face bleak future- UPF

[TamilNet, Saturday, 30 October 2004, 00:30 GMT]
"The Collective Agreement (CA) entered into between the Employers' Federation and the Joint Trade Union Committee does not provide plantation workers a wage increase that takes into account the increase in the Cost of Living (COL) index. Grim prospect of starvation is a realilty in Estate households," said S.Arulsamy, Central Provincial Council Member and Upcountry People's Front (UPF) Administrative Secretary, in a media release issued Friday.

Tea pickers at Bamboragala EstatePlantation workers have been granted a new wage of Rs.180 per day, of which Rs 135 will constitute the basic component which was increased by Rs 14 from the previous value of Rs 121. The additional daily allowance of Rs 45 depends on attendance and plucking weight. Rs 180 per day is hardly enough to compensate for the price increase in Kerosine and essential food items, the release said.

Further, only the Rs. 14 increase in the basic wage is applied to the employee pension (EPF-ETF: Employee Provident Fund, Employee Trust Fund) and works out to an increase of Rs.1.80 per day. The daily allowance of Rs 45 will not be applied towards computing EPF-ETF. The daily allowance is also contingent on 26 days' work per month, and not all workers are able to earn this amount as a regular addition in the past, said the release, highlighting the meagre addition in workers retirement funds.

Following a Collective Agreement signed in 1992, workers lost their legal entitlement of wage increase tied to every point rise in the COL index. With the COL index for September standing at 3684.7, workers would be technically entitled to a wage of Rs 350 per day assuming a widely accepted figure of 4 cent increase per point increase in COL, the release said pointing to the fact that plantation workers are receiving only 50% of the due amount.

Till November l992, both the Janatha Estates Development Board and the State Plantations Corporation paid nearly Rs. 225 million in annual taxes to the Sri Lanka Government and tax exemptions given to the Companies over the last 12 years have benefitted the Plantation Corporations to reap large profits.

The release said, the Workers deserve a minimum of at least Rs. 250 per day.

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