Petition challenging plantations workers' daily wage hike; notices issued on respondents | Daily News

Petition challenging plantations workers' daily wage hike; notices issued on respondents

The Court of Appeal yesterday issued notices on the respondents returnable for May 5 in connection with the Writ Petition filed by 20 major plantation companies. These plantation companies are seeking an order quashing the decision of the Wages Board to increase the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs.1,000.

The Court of Appeal Bench comprising Justice (President) Arjuna Obeysekera and Justice Mayadunne Corea fixed the writ petition for argument on May 5. The respondent parties were directed to file their objections on or before April 27 while the petitioners were directed to file counter objections before May 4 if necessary.

The petitioners are; Agarapatana Plantations Limited, Balangoda Plantations PLC, Elpitiya Plantations PLC, Horana Plantations PLC, Hapugastenne Plantations PLC, Kahawatte Plantations PLC, Kegalle Plantations PLC, Kelani Valley Plantations PLC, Kotagala Plantations PLC, Madulsima Plantations PLC, Malwatte Valley Plantations PLC, Maskeliya Plantations PLC, Natural Plantations Limited, Namunukula Plantations PLC, Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC, Udapussallawa Plantations PLC, Watawala Plantations PLC, Hatton Plantations PLC, Bogawantalawa Plantations PLC and Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd.

The petitioners had named Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala de Silva, Chairman of Wage Board for tea, rubber growing and manufacturing trade Prabath Chandrakeerthi and several others as respondents.

The Petitioners stated that in the event they are compelled to pay Rs.1,000 as a minimum wage to every estate worker, they would incur significant losses and the Petitioner companies would all run at a loss for the foreseeable future.

The Gazette notification on increasing the daily wage of Estate Workers to Rs. 1,000 was published on March 9. This increase comprises Rs.900 as the minimum daily wage and Rs.100 allowance.

The Court was informed that the issue of a wage increase for employees of estates was raised during the last Presidential Elections, with the candidates of the two main political parties promising a minimum daily wage of Rs. 1,000. The Petitioners state that several attempts were made thereafter to increase the minimum daily wage to Rs. 1,000 per day, and that the Petitioners were agreeable to the said proposal, subject to it being linked to the minimum attendance of the worker and productivity of the worker. However, the negotiations had not been successful. In January 2021, the Minister of Labour had appointed a Wages Board for the Tea Growing and Manufacturing Trade as well as for the Rubber Growing and Manufacturing Trade, with each Wages Board consisting of six Employers representatives, six Employees representatives and three Nominated members. The Petitioners have no complaint with the composition of the Wages Board and their appointment. The Wages Boards had met on 8th February 2021 where the issue of minimum daily wage had been discussed. The Petitioners state that they objected to the proposal of a minimum daily wage of Rs. 900 and a budgetary allowance of Rs. 100 without linking it to attendance and productivity. The Petitioners claim that the Wages Board had disregarded their objections, and by majority decision had approved the above wage increase.

President's Counsel Romesh de Silva with counsel Sugath Caldera under the instructions of Sanath Wijewardena appeared for the petitioners.

Additional Solicitor General Susantha Balapatabendi with Senior Deputy Solicitor General Vikum De Abrew appeared for the Attorney General. Avindra Rodrigo PC with counsel Kaushalya Navaratne appeared for several respondent parties.