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Thondaman alleges PA is in the grip of chartered accountants

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Thondaman

“Planters better understand workers problems”

By Sirimantha Ratnasekera

CWC leader and Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Minister Jeevan Thondaman called on the Planter’s Association (PA) to pay government proposed Rs 1,700 daily wage for estate workers without resorting to further dilatory tactics and excuses.

Thondaman in a brief interview with the Sunday Island on Thursday said that the PA must realize that Rs1,700 daily wage was an equitable solution to ease the hardships of estate workers.

“The problem with the PA is that majority of their decision makers are not planters who understand the plight of estate workers. There are more chartered accountants than planters who call the shots. They are not concerned about the human aspect of the plight of estate workers but focused only on keeping exploiting the workers,” Thondaman said.

He said that about 50 years back the tea industry made continuous developments in terms of productivity every year because the industry was managed by the planters. They looked after the workers, the workers looked after the tea and the tea looked after the companies. This operated as a cycle. That cycle no longer seems to be in operation.

“The industry suffered because the then government made a decision to take over the estates from the companies and placed them under the Janata Estates Development Board and the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation. The JEDB and SLSPC ran into losses and then these estates were given to Regional Plantation Companies which are least concerned about the welfare of workers. Today estate workers cannot even build a toilet without getting approval of these companies.

“Since reaching a collective agreement, the estate workers’ payments were increased every two years. For the past four years this increment was not given. The government had many rounds of talks with these companies which keep on insisting that they are running at a loss.

“First we proposed the daily wage should be increased to Rs 1,200. They did not agree. We had talks after talks for one year. The RPCs kept dragging it so that they could continue to exploit the workers. After all these talks and Wages Board approval, the government issued the gazette stipulating the daily wage at Rs 1,700.

Now the RPCs say that they can pay Rs 1,200. The industry and workers will continue to suffer as long as the PA is in the grip of accountants. This association should be made of planters instead,” Thondaman said.

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