Sri Lanka estate wage dispute deadlocked

Sept 12, 2009 (LBO) – Talks between Sri Lankan plantations companies and labour unions on a pay hike were unsuccessful Friday and are likely to be resumed next week, although the gap seems to have narrowed, union officials said. O A Ramiah,.Secretary General of the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre, one of the three main unions involved in the talks, said they were still demanding a daily wage of 500 rupees a worker.

Plantations companies have rejected the demand, saying they cannot afford to pay it given high costs and losses made earlier in the year owing to drought, which hit production.

“There was not much headway made in the negotiations,” Ramiah told LBO. “We hope there will some breakthrough soon. We’re asking for 500 rupees.”

Plantations company officials were not available for comment.

Union sources said the companies had agreed to raise their offer further and were now offering a daily wage of 375 rupees, up from 360 offered earlier.

“If the company managements come with reasonable proposals which are attractive, then the unions might reduce their demand,” said a union official. “Until then, it is difficult for us to come down.”

Union officials said a worker ‘go-slow’ would continue on e