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Planters’ Association to Lodge Objections Against Proposed Wage Increase

The Planters’ Association (PA) of Ceylon, representing Regional Plantation Companies (RPC), has affirmed its intention to file objections to the proposed Rs. 1700 daily wage increase for plantation workers, clarifying that a final decision on the matter is pending.

In a statement to the media, the PA expressed deep concern over the announcement of the wage increase by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the May Day rally of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, held at the Kotagala Public Ground. The PA noted that the tone of media coverage and remarks by government officials are raising expectations among the public, which could potentially lead to disappointment and unrest.

The Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara, issued a gazette notification on the 25th of last month, granting permission for the Commissioner of Labour to determine a minimum wage for workers in the Tea Growing and Manufacturing Trade and Rubber Cultivation and Raw Rubber Processing Trade. Subsequently, the Commissioner General of Labour, H. K. K. A. Jayasundara, published a procedure of payment to workers in these sectors on April 30.

The proposed Rs. 1700 living wage represents a 70 percent increase compared to the current living wage of Rs. 1000. It comprises a daily wage of Rs. 1350 (including the daily budgetary relief allowance and to be applied for payment of EPF and ETF) and a daily special allowance of Rs. 350, with an additional Rs. 80 proposed for the Kilogram rate.

Objections to the proposed determination are being accepted until 12:00 noon on May 15.

However, the PA expressed concern that President Wickremesinghe’s announcement and subsequent media reporting may have created the impression that the wage increase would be effective from May 1. The PA clarified that neither the effective date nor the quantum of the proposed minimum payment has been determined yet, as stated in the Gazette notification.

Despite claims by the PA, neither the President’s statements nor media reports made reference to the effective date of the wage increase. Additionally, PA officials were unavailable on May 1 to comment on the matter, despite multiple attempts to reach out to them.

In 2021, with the support of labour unions, the government successfully secured approval from respective Wages Boards for the Rs. 1000 living wage, despite objections from RPCs.

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