Sri Lanka: Protests erupted around the hill country yesterday as estate workers continued to demand that their basic wage be increased to Rs.1000 per day.
A large number of estate workers from a number of estates in the Patana Police area walked in procession towards the Patana junction yesterday morning holding slogans demanding that their basic wage be increased to Rs.1000 from the current Rs 500.
They statged a picketing campaign at Patana junction on the Hatton-Nuwara Eliya road from 10 am till 1.00 pm.
Three wheeler operators parked their vehicles along the road and shops in the Patana and Bogahawatte bazaars were closed in solidarity with the protesters.
The protesters were from the Kelliewatte, Bogahawatte, Dimbula, Mt.Vernon, Craigielea, Faithilea and Forest Creek estates. The Dimbula-Patana Police headed by Inspector Dissanayake provided security.
Estate workers from the Wewessa Tea Estate also staged a protest at around 12.45 p.m, opposite the Uva Provincial Council, as the Wewessa Tea Estate authorities have refused to comply with their demands.
Teachers of the Hatton-Kotagala school, where most children come from the estates, also engaged in a protest yesterday between 7.30-8.30am asking that the workers’ basic wage be increased.
The protest was held at the Hatton-Nuwara Eliya main road entrance to the school.
They pointed out that it was the estate workers who earned one of the lowest wages in the country. They asked that the government intervene in increasing the wage.
In Hatton, Estate workers have organised a protest march into Hatton town on October 28. The protest march has been planned to start at the Hatton-Malliappuwa junction and arrive in Hatton town. Former Hatton-Dickoya Municipal Council Chairman and incumbent councillor Alagamuttu Nandakumara has requested that all shops in Hatton close for the day in support of the march.
These protests interestingly have not been led by any political party or union and it was the result of a huge demonstration held on Wednesday (24) at Galle Face Green by estate workers and their children who work in Colombo.
The protests were organised through social media and has led to the push for the Collective Agreement between the companies and the workers to be renegotiated.
At present, workers earn a basic wage of Rs.500 and the companies have promised to increase the basic to Rs.600 with Rs.340 being added as an incentive per day.
Workers however point out that incentives depend on reporting to work 25 days a week and plucking at least 18-20kg of tea per day- and if these conditions are not met due to both natural as well as human reasons, their wage would remain at Rs.600 per day.
“This time around, the workers are not prepared to settle for anything less,” an Estate Workers’ Union member said, as companies once again try to negotiate a hard deal for the workers.