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10 Feb 2019

Quintus Colombage, La Croix International, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Tea workers demand increased minimum daily wage

"No storm in a teacup for Sri Lanka's tea industry", 2 February 2019

[Sri Lanka's] tea pickers have been underpaid for generations and remain stuck at the bottom of the social ladder with chronocially low wages and few opportunities to own land [said Pastor Marimuthu Sakthivel].

The Anglican priest, co-leader of a campaign demanding a higher daily wage for tea estate employees, joined other priests, a local bishop, social activists and women tea workers in the capital making their voices heard on Jan. 23...The campaigners are targeting [a minimum daily wage of] 1,000 rupees (US$5.40) [up from 500 rupees]...

The tea workers [collective agreement] expired in October 2018. They have been protesting since then as no new compact was signed that would have increased their wage. The laborers rejected a proposed raise of 20 percent, or 100 rupees, offered by the Employers' Federation of Ceylon, arguing this was not a fair deal. 

They went on a seven-day strike in December...Refusing to back down or be ignored, they returned to the capital to hold another demonstration on Jan. 28...The workers are almost all Tamils, descended from those brought in as cheap labor around the 1820s under British colonial rule. Women make up more than half of the total number. They usually live on the estates in rows of 400-square-foot rooms....

..New research conducted by the state-run University of Peradeniya found that a worker needs 27,707 rupees a month on average to meet their basic needs. But their current average salary is about 8,000 rupees or less than a third of that...