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Government Mandates Immediate Rs. 1,700 Minimum Wage for Plantation Workers Amid Pushback from Companies

May 29, Colombo (LNW): Water Supply and Plantation Infrastructure Development Minister Jeevan Thondaman announced that the Cabinet has mandated Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) to pay a minimum daily wage of Rs. 1,700 to plantation workers immediately, as per Gazette No. 2385/14 published on April 21, 2024. Non-compliant companies risk lease termination and potential transfer to better-managed firms.

Thondaman criticized the local plantation companies for their reluctance to negotiate with the government and trade unions, viewing it as an exploitation tactic. Despite given a 15-day deadline to submit acceptable proposals following the preliminary gazette on April 31, 2024, the companies failed to comply.

Thondaman pointed out that some small tea estate owners already pay above the mandated minimum wage, suggesting no valid excuse for the larger companies’ non-compliance. He urged the companies to enhance productivity and income through mechanization, value addition, and diversification.

Commending President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership, Thondaman emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring plantation workers receive a living wage and ending exploitative practices in the industry.

In contrast, the Planters’ Association proposed only a Rs. 200 increase, bringing the daily wage to Rs. 1,380, citing the industry’s financial struggles. They also offered a Rs. 5,000 monthly allowance during recent discussions with government authorities. Dr. Roshan Rajadurai from the association warned that the proposed wage hike could bankrupt the entire plantation sector. The association plans to consult their legal teams regarding potential government repossession of estates failing to meet the wage requirements.

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