Sri Lanka tea estates try new employment model

Sept 22, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s plantations industry is looking at a new employment model to overcome difficulties caused by the existing 100-year-old system that relies on huge resident labour forces, industry officials said. The new model, being tried by a few firms, allows workers to cultivate their own plots of tea and sell the green leaf to company-owned factories.

Dan Seevaratnam, executive chairman of Kahawatte Plantations, owned by the Dilmah group, said an employment model they adopted where workers are given blocks of land and cultivate tea and are paid like smallholders to supply leaf to the factories was working well.

“Our model ensures workers an income guarantee as opposed to the current model of employment guarantee which can™t be successful in agricultural endeavours.”

He said it was necessary to guarantee workers their income as they had to have a means of living.

Other firms are also trying out the model in a limited way and it could be a model that the industry could adopt in a judicious manner.

The model is similar to that of tea smallholders in the island’s south producing low grown teas which now make up the bulk of the crop.

These small holders cultivate small plots, t