Sri Lanka Planters Association says tea industry might survive with new pay model


Sep 15, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Planters Association says that tea industry, which is in a revenue crisis, might have a chance to survive if its new productivity-linked wage model presented to employees is accepted by them.

“The employers’ ability to pay is a very important and critically fundamental aspect when labour wages are negotiated,” Roshan Rajadurai, chairman of the Planters’ Association said at the annual general meeting held last Friday.

“The archaic and the century old model of attendance based wages that was suited for a by-gone era must necessarily be changed to a productivity based, opportunity and ability to earn based wage model for the industry, even to have a faint chance of survival.”

The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and the Planters’ Association (PA) has proposed a Revenue Sharing and a Productivity Based Wage Model to the worker unions in order that the workers who desire so have the opportunity and the ability to earn the desired daily wage.

However employers and employees are still locked in talks as employees demand 1,000 rupees daily wage.

“While we have increased the daily wage of workers 11 fold from 1992 to 2013, this year, we have clearly explained to the representative worker unions, our inability to pay such a high percentage of wage increase purely because of unaffordability and our inability to pay such an increase because commodity prices have crashed to its lowest levels comparatively in our living memory,” Rajadurai said.

“We do not see any reason as to why the unions should reject these models as there have been many estates where these models have worked successfully on experimental basis,” he said.

“The success of more than 400,000 tea smallholder operators which is almost 2 ½ times the RPC worker strength is a good indicator of the effectiveness of this scheme for the 170,000 RPC workforces to emulate.”

“It is impossible to pay out what you do not earn or what you do not have, whatever pressures are brought upon.”

He says the efficacy and the success of the revenue sharing model is evidenced by the fact that within a 20 year period from 1992, the tea smallholder extent under cultivation has doubled from 60,000 hectares to 120,000 hectares along with more than a 250 percent increase in their total crop.

“Their quality of life has improved tremendously and this bears testimony that the Revenue Share model is a tried and tested model for plantation operations, for over 50 years,”

“We have repeatedly seen the lunatic spectacle seemed periodically bent on dragging the industry towards paralysis, apparently under the misguided impression that the workers who are employed in the industry are separate from the industry itself,” he said.

“The workers and their Unions should not adopt a “beggar thy industry” policy.  This is a pursuit of a policy contrary to the self-interest of the constituency involved.”

He says the daily plucking averages  of a tea plantation in Sri Lanka is around 18 kilos of tea leaves, while India’s average is close to 30 kilos and in Kenya around 48 kilos.

“Trade Unions must not senselessly oppose every progressive and practical approach that is being proposed to improve productivity,” Rajadurai said.

“If this attitude persists, I am afraid the dissipation of the industry which has been such a significant landmark in our country will surely hasten.”