- Comnr. Gen. of Labour warns of action in the event of a boycott
After having boycotted the meeting of the Wages Board on the minimum wage for the tea plantation sector, regional plantation companies (RPCs) are still undecided about their attendance at the next meeting, The Morning learnt.
The next meeting would be convened on 1 March to hear objections to the decision reached on 8 February about granting Rs. 1,000 as the minimum wage to plantation workers.
Speaking to The Morning yesterday (25), Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) Media Spokesman Dr. Roshan Rajadurai said the representatives of the PA have not yet decided on whether they would attend the next wages board meeting.
“We do not know whether we should dignify the quorum with our presence,” said Dr. Rajadurai.
Commissioner General of Labour Prabath Chandrakeerthi told The Morning that since the representatives of RPCs boycotted the previous meeting on 19 February, it has been decided to reconvene the Board for a final meeting on 1 March.
“We need a quorum – two representatives from the trade unions, two representatives from the employers’ side, and two from the Government – in order to reach a decision. Since we could not obtain a quorum on 19 February, we could not reach a decision,” said Chandrakeerthi.
Raising his concerns over another potential boycott by representatives of the RPCs, Chandrakeerthi said that if that happens, the Department of Labour would be forced to enforce the provisions of the Wages Boards Ordinance to take action against them. However, when inquired as to the nature of the proposed actions, Chandrakeerthi refused to elaborate.
Nevertheless, he did state that Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala de Silva had been informed of this decision through discussions.
When contacted regarding the matter, Secretary to the Ministry of Labour Mapa Pathirana told The Morning that the nature of the actions cannot be determined yet. He, however, noted that the “Wages Board Ordinance does give certain powers to the Labour Commissioner General and the Minister”.
The proposal for increasing the minimum wage of plantation workers to Rs. 1,000 was declared at the 2021 Budget reading in December 2020 by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Finance.
The Labour Ministry convened a Wages Board to bring a resolution to the matter, as the RPCs and the trade unions representing the workers could not reach an agreement on the matter. The Wages Board, which met on 8 February, approved the proposal by the trade unions, pertaining to which a two-week period was given for any party to raise objections.