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Govt prepared to face legal challenges over plantation worker wage increase: Thondaman

May 14, Colombo (LNW): Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Minister Jeevan Thondaman assured that the government is prepared to address any legal challenges should estate companies contest the government’s decision to raise wages for estate workers.

Previously, plantation companies asserted an inability to raise workers’ basic salary by even a single rupee.

However, following the government’s announcement of a daily wage of Rs. 1700, Minister Thondaman revealed that companies proposed a Rs. 200 increase in the basic salary for estate workers.

He underscored the companies’ capability to enhance wages for estate workers.

Speaking at a press briefing at the President Media Centre (PMC) on Monday (13), themed ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’, the minister highlighted the acute shortage of drinking water in the Jaffna peninsula, necessitating urgent measures.

Presently, only 11 per cent of the peninsula has access to clean drinking water.

However, with the ongoing construction of a desalination plant, approximately 40 per cent of the Jaffna peninsula will soon have access to drinking water, marking a significant development in addressing water scarcity, he noted.

Amidst a severe economic crisis impacting the nation, estate workers are among the hardest hit.

Enduring prolonged hardships amidst economic turmoil, their main struggle centres on wage issues, Thondaman emphasised.

In response, the government has taken decisive action by officially mandating a daily wage of Rs. 1700 for estate workers under President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership, through a gazette notification.

It is now imperative for estate companies to comply with this official directive.

Moreover, the government stands ready to confront any legal challenges from estate companies disputing the wage increase for plantation workers, he asserted.

Previously, plantation companies claimed an inability to raise their workers’ basic salary by even a rupee. However, upon the issuance of a government gazette notification setting the daily wage for plantation workers at Rs. 1700, the same companies promptly increased the basic salary by Rs. 200.

This underscores their capacity to uplift the wages of estate workers, he contended.

“Simultaneously, the government is actively improving the estate community’s quality of life by addressing housing shortages among plantation workers, expanding educational and employment opportunities, and now, by increasing salaries. This concerted effort undeniably benefits our estate community, providing tangible advantages to our people.”

“However, as the election season approaches, certain parties often make numerous promises to our people. Among these commitments, some pledge to transform estate workers into small estate owners. However, they frequently fail to elaborate on the mechanisms behind such proposals,” he remarked.

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