Sri Lanka estate wage dispute breakthrough seen

Sept 13, 2009 (LBO) – Talks between Sri Lankan plantations companies and labour unions on a pay hike appeared to have made some headway when the dominant union agreed on a deal, union officials said.

Plantations companies had said they were unable to pay 500 rupees a day as they cannot afford it given high costs and losses made earlier in the year owing to drought, which hit production. The Ceylon Workers Congress, the main union involved in the wage negotiations and also a powerful minority Tamil political party in the hill country, has agreed to a daily wage of 405 rupees a worker, after demanding at least 500 rupees.

Workers now get a daily wage of 290 rupees and unions and plantations firms had been negotiating to renew a two-year collective wage agreement that lapsed in March.

But other union officials said they had not been involved in the final talks between the CWC and plantations companies Saturday.

O A Ramiah,.Secretary General of the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre, one of the three unions involved in the talks, said 405 rupees was still not enough and that the unions leaders would meet Monday to discuss the issue.

CWC and plantations company officials were not