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16 Sep 2022

M. Thevarajah, World Socialist Web Site

Sri Lanka: Tea workers at Glenugie Estate protest wage cuts for workers who fail to meet 'unrealistic' daily work targets

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"Sri Lanka: Glenugie Estate workers protest wage cuts and harsh conditions", 16 September 2022

On Monday, over 75 workers from Glenugie Estate, at Upcot in the Nuwara-Eliya district, protested wage cuts by the Maskeliya plantation company, amid the country’s escalating cost of living. The demonstration outside the estate’s office was called by the Glenugie Estate Workers Action Committee (GEWAC).

Over the past month, the wages of all Glenugie Estate workers who fail to reach new unrealistic daily work targets have been cut by more than half. The daily tea leaf plucking target has increased from 16 to 20 kilograms and the land clearing target doubled from 75 to 150 square metres...

The protesting workers held signs with slogans such as: “Stop wage cuts,” “Stop the increase workloads” and “Stop price increases of essentials.” They also called for reinstatement of sacked and victimised Alton Estate workers and the immediate withdrawal of frame-up charges against them...

A female worker from Glenugie Estate’s Deeside division told the World Socialist Web Site how management had cut wages and driven up productivity.

“Last month, I worked 18 days, but was only paid 9,350 rupees ($US25). My actual wage should be 18,000 rupees, according to the 1,000-rupee daily wage ordered by the courts, but they avoided paying the 1,000-rupee daily amount by increasing targets that we cannot fulfill. We cannot manage on this meagre wage because the prices of everything are rising daily.”

Another worker said he had worked 28 days but was only paid 16,400 rupees. “None of the trade unions has opposed this unjustifiable wage cut,” he added.

In order to receive the 1,000-rupee daily wage, workers have to pluck 20 kilograms of tea leaves. If a worker plucks 12 kg, they are only paid 500 rupees for 10 kg, with additional amounts paid on the basis of 40 rupees per kilo.

While estate workers have been fighting for years for higher wages, these struggles have been suppressed by the companies, assisted by the unions...