The recent wage increase granted to plantation sector workers has pushed the cost of production of Sri Lankan teas to the highest in the world, the Planters’ Association of Ceylon claimed.
“The wage increase will cause the cost of production of tea to escalate to its highest levels ever by an increase of Rs.40 per kilogram effective from April 1, this year. Sri Lanka’s cost of production of tea is the highest in the world,” Planters Association said in a statement.
According to the latest Central Bank report, the cost of production of a kilo of tea in Sri Lanka stood at Rs.391 in 2012.
The Association stated that the latest plantation worker wage increase could ensure a monthly income of at least Rs.15,500 per person and called for trade union and worker co-operation to increase productivity and efficiency.
The daily wage package of a plantation worker was increased by 20 percent from Rs. 515 to Rs. 620. The Planter’s Association represents the Regional Plantation Companies (RPC’s) who have subscribed to the new wage hike.
“The new wage package could be a win situation for the worker. The payment for a minimum 25 days’ work would enable a single worker to earn a minimum of Rs.15, 500 per month. A family of three would have a monthly household income of around Rs.45, 000.
This is in addition to the non-wage benefits of free housing, child care, health and education that are provided to all plantation families,” Plantation Association Chairman Lalith Obeyesekere noted.
Obeyesekere went on to add that the RPC’s were unanimous in granting a reasonable wage increase, given the present cost of living.
However, he re-iterated that there is a greater need for enhanced productivity particularly in tea which is the least viable of the main crops in the corporate sector and RPC’s expectations from trade unions and workers were high and worker performance should be at peak levels.
“RPC’s have been struggling with high labour costs with several companies finding the wage revision a challenge to sustain. We look to all stakeholders, workers, trade unions etc to join hands in sustaining the viability of the tea industry,” summed up Obeyesekere.