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A Committee to Address Issues with State-Owned Company Leases and Plantation Worker Wages

May 24, Colombo (LNW): The Cabinet has approved the formation of a committee headed by the President’s Secretary to study and report on various issues, including the introduction of laws to cancel lease agreements of state-owned companies with poor management that are unable to pay salaries. This decision was announced by Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana, at a press briefing held at the Government Information Department on May 23.

The proposal, presented by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, aims to allocate government-owned land to investors capable of utilizing it more productively, thereby developing both resources and employees.

Minister Gunawardhana also addressed the recent government announcement to increase daily wages for plantation workers. Some plantation companies have informed the government that they cannot afford these increased wages. As a result, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization, and National Policy has been tasked with estimating the minimum wage for plantation workers, considering the current cost of living and the impacts of the recent economic crisis. They will also assess each plantation company’s capacity to pay the estimated wage.

Approval was granted to implement proposals for appointing a committee and introducing laws that allow the cancellation of land lease agreements with estate companies unable to pay salaries due to mismanagement. Minister Gunawardhana explained:

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recession, there was a significant increase in price levels. During that time, a Rs. 10,000 allowance was provided to government employees as a remedy for the rising cost of living. However, plantation workers did not receive a comparable increase, leading to a decline in their standard of living and nutritional levels. Consequently, trade unions associated with plantations consistently demanded wage increases to improve the living conditions of plantation workers.

“In response, the government announced a salary increase for these workers. Nevertheless, the estate companies complained that they could not remain competitive in the market due to the rising cost of production. Therefore, the President appointed special committees, headed by the President’s Secretary and involving other ministries, to conduct a comprehensive study and provide a report.”

The establishment of this committee is seen as a crucial step in addressing the financial and managerial challenges facing state-owned companies and ensuring fair wages for plantation workers amidst economic difficulties.

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