Wage crisis brewing in tea industry

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 20 January 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Sri Lanka's vital plantation industry will be paralysed the day after the country celebrates the golden jubilee of it independence from British rule on February 4, if a crisis brewing over a wage hike demanded by workers in the sector is not resolved by the end of this month, said trade union sources today.

upcountry_tamils.gifThe Joint Plantation Trade Union Committee (JPTUC), the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) - trade unions which between them control the work force of Sri Lanka's plantation sector - say that they are organising a full scale strike to protest against the refusal of the Federation of Employers to grant the 105 rupees (2.75 USD) daily wage demanded by the unions on behalf of the workers.

Workers in the plantation sector went on strike in April last year demanding a ten rupee wage hike.

The matter was resolved after the Employers Federation promised to pay this as price-wage supplement, under which the workers were promised extra-payment on the basis of prices fetched by tea and rubber at the auctions.

Workers in the plantation sector now recieve 83 rupees (1.40 USD) as their daily wage.

Last month, after the three trade unions threatened to strike over the wage issue, the Employers Federation agreed to raise the daily wage to 93 rupees, which was not acceptable to the unions as the supplement which the Federation had agreed upon last April had never materialised.

Talks to resolve the matter failed on Dec.22 last year as the unions rejected a fresh offer by the Federation to a hike, this time a price-wage bonus. The Federation is backed by the government in this issue say union sources.

The government, they said, attempted to sabotage the joint effort of the trade unions by offering to arrange talks between the Sri Lankan President and the JPTUC.

A fresh round of talks between the unions and the federations will be held on January 31 as an eleventh hour effort to stop the strike scheduled for February 5.


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