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Supreme Court issues Stay order preventing daily wage hike of plantation workers

By: Staff Writer

July 05, Colombo (LNW): The government’s firm action plan to implement an alternative wage model for plantation workers to compensate workers based on productivity and attendance has faced a lagal snag following the Supreme Court order suspending the wage hike.

The Supreme Court yesterday issued an interim injunction order preventing the implementation of the Gazette notification issued by the Labour Minister increasing the daily wage of the plantation employee to Rs. 1,700.

The Supreme Court issued this order while allowing the hearing of an appeal petition filed by plantation companies including Agarapathana Plantations Ltd, against the relevant Gazette imposing a minimum wage for plantation workers.

The order was issued by a three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Gamini Amarasekara, Kumuduni Wickramasinghe and Janak de Silva.

The judgment also states that this interim order will remain in force until the hearing of the petition is concluded. After that, it was decided to call the petition for further hearing on August 28.

A petition had been filed by plantation companies seeking an order invalidating the gazette notification issued by the Minister of Labor stipulating a minimum daily wage for plantation workers.

The petition had been filed by 21 plantation companies including Agarapatana Plantations Ltd while the petitioners have named 52 individuals including Minister of Labor Manusha Nanayakkara and the Labor Commissioner as respondents of the case.

The petitioning plantation companies point out that the Minister of Labor has issued a gazette notification setting the minimum daily wage of a plantation worker at Rs. 1,350, together with an allowance of Rs. 300 and another allowance of Rs. 80, as minimum wage.

The petitioners claim that the decision taken by the Minister of Labor without consulting them, violates the legal principle of natural justice.

Accordingly, the petitioners seek an order invalidating the decision, claiming that the decision was made arbitrarily by the government.

 Regional Plantaion Companies (RPCs) have been   strongly rejecting President Wickremesinghe’s 1 May announcement of a 70% increase in the daily wage of estate workers to Rs. 1,700. Industry experts point out that tea producers are struggling to meet the increased daily wage due to the appreciation of the rupee since early this year.

Minister Jeevan Thondaman is calling for decisive action against RPCs for failing to properly maintain the tea estates. Many plantation workers have already left the estate sector due to poor wages. Activists highlight the fact that tea pluckers work under very difficult conditions because most RPCs do not replant tea as required by the agreement.

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