On January 14, Admiral Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s appointment issued a media absolution declaring that the admiral capital the minimum circadian allowance of tea acreage workers added to 1,000 rupees ($US5.50), starting on March 1.
The advertisement was anon hailed by Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) baton Arumugam Thondaman, a chiffonier abbot in the new government, who claimed that it accomplished a affiance fabricated by Rajapakse during aftermost year’s presidential elections.
Rajapakse’s advertisement is a apparent fraud. The admiral and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) boyhood government, who are advancing a breeze accepted acclamation ancient in April, are sitting on a amusing time bomb, with ascent banal activity over low accomplishment and the aerial amount of capital items. Key sections of the alive class, including the tea acreage workers, accept been complex in a alternation of allowance struggles over the accomplished 18 months.
Rajapakse’s pay angle is a awkward advance to broadcast the ascent acrimony of acreage workers over accomplishment and win their votes in the accessible election. He hopes to win a two-thirds aldermanic majority for the SLPP and advance through legislation to authorize absolute methods of rule.
Rajapakse declared aftermost November that if adopted he would ensure that acreage workers’ circadian allowance would be aerial to 1,000 rupees. While he hoped this would win him acreage workers’ votes, Rajapakse alone anchored 36 percent of the votes in the Nuwara Eliya commune breadth ample numbers of acreage workers live.
Estate workers—the majority of them Tamil-speaking—are adverse to Rajapakse and absolutely acquainted of his barbarous role as above Admiral Mahinda Rajapakse’s defence secretary during the blood-soaked war adjoin the agitator Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Acreage workers, decidedly youth, were subjected to analytical accompaniment victimisation during this period.
Rajapakse’s proposed access comes boilerplate acreage workers’ demands during their broad civic bang in December 2018. They capital their 500-rupee basal allowance angled to 1,000 rupees, with added increases in pensions and added benefits.
The CWC and added acreage unions betrayed the strike, calling it off afterwards 11 canicule and again signing a aggregate acceding in January 2019 that added the circadian basal allowance by aloof 200 rupees, which forth with added allowances, took it to 750 rupees. The acreage companies additionally included their binding account acquittal to the Employees Provident Fund, to falsely affirmation that the circadian allowance of the acreage artisan was added to 855 rupees.
Using this artificial figure, the media is falsely advertisement that Rajapakse’s 1,000-rupee circadian allowance involves a 145-rupee or 17 percent access on the “current 855-rupee circadian wage.”
Sri Lanka’s 22 above acreage companies, and the Ceylon Employers’ Federation (CEF) which represents them, anon adjoin the new pay proposal. This would amount about 6 billion rupees annually, the CEF claimed, and accept a “disastrous impact” on the “unprofitable” tea industry.
However, afterwards abstracted discussions aftermost anniversary with the Sri Lankan President’s Secretary P.B. Jayasundara and Acreage Industries Abbot Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, the CEF agreed to appear up with an “alternative” pay acceleration model.
On Sunday, CEF acreage breadth administrator Roshan Rajadurai told a affair that “no decision” had been taken on the pay affair but that if a “productivity-based system” was implemented workers could acquire “more than a 1,000 rupees a day.” The “productivity-based system” is allotment of the tea industry’s demands for amplification of its “revenue administration model,” which the unions accustomed in aftermost year’s pay deal.
Under this scheme, plots of about 1,000 or added tea bushes are allocated to a artisan and his ancestors to advance and harvest. Workers’ hard-won amusing gains, such as pensions and added benefits, are eliminated. The artisan and his ancestors are paid a allocation of the assets from the tea bushes, afterwards the companies abstract their costs and accumulation margin. Workers accept alone this exploitative, cost-cutting arrangement in several estates breadth it has been implemented.
Some companies accept additionally started introducing agenda character cards and cyberbanking belief machines to drive up production. Aftermost year, 10 canicule afterwards Rajapakse was adopted president, about 5,000 acreage workers from the Up-Cot breadth abreast Hatton went on bang adjoin these methods. The bang activity was betrayed by the barter unions.
Sri Lankan acreage workers face an all-embracing alternation of backer exploiters. Acreage companies consistently appeal college abundance and lower assembly costs in adjustment to attempt with added tea-exporting countries, such as Kenya and India, in the apple market.
Claims by Sri Lankan acreage companies that they are active at a accident are false. Many companies accretion asset profits because they additionally accomplish as tea auctioneers and exporting businesses. In 2018, for example, the boilerplate bargain amount of tea was about 580 rupees a kilogram, while the consign amount was 850 rupees.
While acreage workers are paid a pittance, chief tea industry admiral accept massive salaries. In 2017, for example, the anniversary accomplishment of the three controlling admiral of Kelani Valley Acreage was 35 actor rupees (about $US200,000) (see: “Sri Lankan acreage companies acquire huge profits while advancing workers’ accomplishment and conditions”).
At the aforementioned time multi-national corporations such as Unilever, which ascendancy the all-embracing tea market, acquire huge profits afterwards affairs from the applicant consign companies in the tea-producing countries.
Along with the CWC, added acreage unions accept accustomed Rajapakse’s alleged pay acceleration proposal. The “1,000 movement,” which was accomplished by the Frontline Left-wing Party and added pseudo-left groups, are additionally announcement the president’s artificial pay acceleration angle as acceptable coin.
Chinthaka Rajapakse, a agent for the “1,000 movement,” offered the organisation’s support, cogent the media that “if the government is austere not alone about accretion circadian accomplishment of workers but additionally ensuring that the tea industry will be abiding in the continued run, it has to accomplish a cardinal of interventions.”
In added words, workers can win their demands and advance their active standards alone if the government intervenes to ensure and advance industry stability. This is absurd beneath the backer arrangement in which profits are extracted from the labour of the alive class.
Like all added corporations, the tea industry fights to maximise its profits and advance its bazaar allotment in antagonism adjoin its all-around rivals. The best acknowledged companies are those that atrociously drive bottomward all labour costs, including accomplishment and added hard-won allowances (see: “How behemothic tea companies accomplishment Kenyan acreage workers”).
Underpinning all the official advertising about Rajapakse’s allowance angle are long-held affairs for a above restructuring of the Sri Lankan tea industry to drive up abundance and absolve a abounding calibration advance on acreage workers’ accomplishment and conditions.
Workers can alone accost and defeat this advance by mobilising apart of the barter unions and in accord with their chic brothers and sisters about the apple on the base of a left-wing and internationalist program.
The Left-wing Equality Party (SEP) is the alone organisation that advocates this perspective. It fought for this during the acreage workers allowance bang in December 2018, calling on workers to body their own activity committees absolute of the barter unions. Abbotsleigh Estate workers effectively responded and accustomed an activity board during the civic strike.
The SEP urges acreage workers and added sections of the alive chic to authorize their own activity committees in alertness for the approaching struggles that lie ahead.
The columnist additionally recommends:
Tea acreage workers charge a all-around strategy[1 May 2019]
The all-embracing acceptation of the Sri Lankan acreage workers’ strike[17 December 2018]
2019 has been a year of accumulation amusing upheaval. We charge you to advice the WSWS and ICFI accomplish 2020 the year of all-embracing left-wing revival. We charge aggrandize our assignment and our access in the all-embracing alive class. If you agree, accord today. Thank you.
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