December 18 (LBO) – Striking estate workers have been asked to get back to work, with the Ceylon Workers Congress agreeing to resume wage talks with plantation companies, officials said Monday.
“The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) feels that this situation has gone too far and we cannot wait for others to deliver,” R Yogarajan, Vice President of the CWC, told journalists.
Over 250,000 estate workers struck work from December 01, lobbying for a 300 rupee a day wage hike, with losses on estate in the region of a billion rupees.
“The CWC will resume discussions with companies from where we left off to achieve a reasonable salary increase for plantation workers. We have communicated this position to the other two unions as well.”
When wage talks broke down in November, employers had offered a wage package of 240 rupees a day, while unions had asked for 270 rupees. “We will now negotiate on this,” Yogarajan said.
The CWC together with the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union and the Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre that are leading the talks, represent over 90 percent of workers.
“We are making a peaceful request for workers to get back to work.” Workers from the Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Nuwara Eliya and Badulla areas have begun going back, Yogarajan said.
The wage talks have the backing of the remaining unions, including the Upcountry People’s Front led by Member of Parliament, H Chandrasekara who had led the demand for a 300 rupee a day wage increase, Yogarajan said.
Plantation companies have warned that recovery of estates could go on into the early part of next year, as fields are overgrown, resulting in some production losses in January.
Concern is mounting that buyers of Ceylon tea will also look at other markets as volumes available to be sold, begins shrinking and prices for high grown teas soars.
The country has scaled down annual tea production forecasts to about 300-305 million kilos this year, over the 317 million kilos last year.