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12 May 2023

Sri Lanka: Workers dismissed for protesting introduction of "unfair" new targets and wage system; incl. co. responses

A total of 54 workers from three Sri Lankan estates - Alton, Katukelle and Welioya - have reportedly been targeted by management and sacked for participation in protests against the imposition of a revenue-sharing system seen as unfair and "exploitative".

Workers and their families are expected to tend the tea bushes, with some inputs provided by the company, and harvest the crop. The leaves are handed over to the company, which deducts its expenses and profit, with the balance given to the worker as his/her income. When fully implemented, workers lose their Employees Provident Fund and other hard-won rights.

Plantation companies started implementing revenue-sharing in full last year, after suppressing a series of struggles by workers at estates in Alton in Up-Cot, Katukelle in Talawakelle and Welioya near Hatton. The Horana Plantation Company (HPC) has begun imposing the system at its estates in Alton, Fairlawn, Gouraville, Stockholm and Mahanilu after a brutal assault on its workers at Alton .

In February 2021, police arrested 24 workers and two youth from the Alton estate on frame up charges of physically assaulting estate managers. The witch hunt was launched after workers went on strike for 47 days to demand higher wages and oppose management harassment. The arrested workers now face a criminal court trial. Using the same bogus charges, HPC then summarily sacked 38 workers, who are now struggling to earn any income. ..

A worker from Fairlawn estate said, “Our rights are being removed by management, following introduction of the revenue-sharing system. The water supply system in our estate has completely collapsed and we have to bear the cost of its repair.”

Full responses from buyers linked to these plantations are below.