Estate workers threaten RPCs with countrywide protest over unpaid wage hike

Wednesday, 12 June 2024 00:30 –      – 49

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Low country estate workers yesterday issued a warning of a countrywide strike if the Government-mandated Rs. 1,700 wage hike is not implemented within this week.

Some workers already protested in Elpitiya town on Monday, expressing frustration and disappointment over the delay.

The workers lamented that they hope this wage increase will not become another unfulfilled political promise.

They cautioned that if Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) fail to honour the Government-gazetted wage hike, they will be forced to cease work.

“We are not street dogs to be treated this way. We want to remind the politicians not to come seeking votes, as people are well aware of how they support the communities in winning their rights,” said one worker.

Low Country Estate Workers Association Advisor Susantha Liyanarachchi stressed that if the RPCs do not implement the wage hike within a week, all workers will stage a countrywide protest.

Meanwhile, Upcountry estate workers also reported not receiving the increased wage, noting that they have only received Rs. 900 so far.

“We only received Rs. 900. But we learn that some RPCs have given their employees the increased Rs. 1,700 wage,” said a worker from the upcountry estates.

On 3 June, The Court of Appeal refused to issue an injunction order in response to a petition filed by 21 RPCs.

The petition sought to suspend the implementation of the gazette issued by the Labour and Foreign Employment Ministry, which mandates an increase in the salary of estate workers to Rs. 1,700.

A bench chaired by Justice Sobitha Rajakaruna of the Court of Appeal considered the petition filed by 21 RPCs against respondents Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara, the Labour Commissioner and 52 others rejected the requested injunction.

Faizer Mustapha PC appeared on behalf of the Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, while Additional Solicitor General Vikum de Abrew represented the Commissioner General of Labour and the Secretary of the Wages Board.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Vikum de Abrew informed the Court that the RPCs boycotted the meeting when the Wages Board was convened. He said as a result, the Labour Commissioner exercised the powers assigned to the Labour Minister and took legal steps to increase the wages of estate workers.

Faizer Mustapha, PC, argued that the petition filed by the RPCs lacked a signature from someone with legal authority. Considering these facts, the Court of Appeal declined to grant the injunction requested by the RPCs.