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26 Sep 2020

M. Thevarajah, wsws.org

Sri Lanka: Hundreds of tea plantation workers protest against wage and allowance cuts

"Sri Lankan plantation workers strike against wage cuts", 25 September 2020

Hundreds of plantation workers at tea estates in Hatton, Maskeliya and Nanuoya in the Nuwara-Eliya district walked out on strike this month in protest against wage and allowance cuts and increased production targets imposed by Regional Plantation Companies.

The stoppages were in defiance of the plantation unions—the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the National Union of Workers (NUW), the Upcountry People’s Front (UPF), the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) and the Democratic Workers Congress (DWC)—which have fully endorsed managements’ attacks...

...The 2018 collective agreement signed between the plantation unions and the companies included increased productivity demands and wage cuts, which have been systematically imposed by management over the past 18 months in the face of mounting opposition from workers.

...While the Sri Lankan tea industry has faced a deep crisis since 2014, this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the country’s tea is purchased by Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Russia. In the first six months of 2019, 129 million tons were exported to these countries. This declined by 14.5 percent during the same period this year.

Earlier this month, President Rajapakse told a meeting of the Presidential Task Force for Economic Resurgence that 10 out of 20 RPCs have been deactivated... These socially destructive plans will see thousands of estate workers and their families lose their jobs and accommodation and face economic destitution.