RPCs propose 33% wage hike for estate workers

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Sri Lanka’s plantation companies have proposed a 33 percent increase in take-home wages based on a productivity model or a 22 percent increase in wages on the attendance-based model, a considerable wage hike compared to other agriculture workers.

Based on President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s request to plantation companies recently, Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) and the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) have submitted a proposal to Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara on a proposed wage hike for the sector.

Industry sources pointed out that this proposal was made in deference to the President’s and Labour Minister’s requests to come up with a wage increase for a standard model and a productivity-based model.

In this respect, the sources said the RPCs had agreed to grant an increase in allowance of Rs. 200 a day or Rs. 5000 a month, or equal to a 22 percent increase in take-home wage on an attendance-base wage model.

But as part of the industry’s efforts to promote productivity on the estates, the RPCs have proposed to pay Rs. 65 a kilo of green leaf, that would mean Rs. 1,300 for 20 kg (Rs. 7 500 amonth) or equal to 33 percent increase in take-home pay.

For rubber sector workers, only the standard model has been proposed due to the poor conditions and drop in revenues in rubber.

The Planters Association has stressed that although it is paying the highest wages compared to other wage boards in Sri Lanka and more than all the earnings of the people working in the agriculture sector, the future remains uncertain due to the rupee appreciation. It was also pointed out that the market is currently declining, with prices dropping in the first two months of this year alone.

High-grown tea dipped by about Rs. 305 in January compared to the same month last year and in February it declined by Rs. 276.

Currently, workers receive Rs. 1000 basic wage plus EPF/ETF and after plucking the set target of 20 kg, they are paid an additional Rs. 40 a kilo.

Sri Lanka is said to be one of the countries with the highest cost of production compared to India and Kenya due to having the lowest labour productivity, industry sources claim.

Compared to other tea economies, despite having the better qualities of tea, the labour mindset is working on a minimum plucking. The minimum plucking in Assam is 33 kg for INR 232.

It was also noted that plantation workers have guaranteed employment compared to other workers in the rest of the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka.

The rest of the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka comprises 2.1 million people who receive considerably a lower wage.

The wages of plantation workers comprise 70 percent of the cost of tea production in Sri Lanka.