Ninety five percent of Regional Plantation Companies reportedly running at a loss

At the head table, chairman PA Sunil Poholiyadde, chairman EFC Roshan Rajadurai, Sec. Gen. PA Lalith Obeysekera, Dir. Gen. EFC Kanishka Weerasinghe, Deputy Chairman EFC Bhathiya Bulumulla, consultant to the EFC Sri Kumar.

Plantation wage negotiations have come a cropper. Plantation trade unions demand a 100 percent wage increase on basic wages, excluding all pluses. Currently, the basic wage stands at Rs. 500 per day. However, plantation companies informed the press yesterday that the demand for Rs. 1000 per day by the unions was completely unrealistic because at least 95 percent of Regional Plantation Companies are running at a loss. Tea and rubber prices have drastically reduced because of related market conditions, which, companies said, they had no control over.

Unions rejected proposals that wages be linked to productivity. The Planters’ Association ( PA) views along with those of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon ( EFC) were that with current incentives operative, wages are in any case in excess of Rs. 1000.

They claimed that the realistic position was that the majority of the productive work force earns as much as Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000 per month ( per woman producer). Add to that the man’s wage of at least Rs. 18,000 to Rs. 20,000 per month and the combined wages of both wife and husband exceed Rs.58,000 per month, they maintained.

Additionally, add-ons should also be taken into the equation, they claimed. ‘Free housing, (their living standards have improved 100 percent), child care, medical facilities and all ancillary services they do not pay for, all given free’, the companies said.

The question was posed, although plantations were running at enormous losses, from where could funds be obtained to service union demands.

The companies took up the position that the maximum daily wage they could settle for was Rs.940 per day inclusive of ETF, EPF and other earnable incentives which would amount to an increase of Rs.3,375 per month. This was the PA’s last and final offer.

‘The unions in rejecting these settlement options are determined to exact their demand base but have not suggested workable alternatives, the companies went on to claim.

They added: ‘Workers who do not seek employment on estates migrate to towns for employment. Such persons have to work at least 12 hours per day, for whatever they earn, and their earnings are cut short by rents they pay giving them a pittance to take home.

‘Additionally, the smallholders exist on just Rs. 26 per kilo of leaf harvested.’

The PA also said the current proposals, if accepted, would result in an increase of Rs. 5 billion for the industry.

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