Twenty plantation companies yesterday filed a writ application before the Court of Appeal seeking an order to invalidate the gazette notification issued last week to increase the daily wage of plantation workers to Rs. 1,000.
The application names the Labour Minister, Ministry Secretary and the Wages Board as respondents. The petitioners argue that increasing the plantation wage by the Labour Ministry puts the industry at risk by escalating costs to unsustainable levels and therefore seek to invalidate the gazette issued on 10 March.
In response to the application, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told reporters he is confident the Court of Appeal will uphold the decision of the Government as it was made with the best interests of the plantation workers at heart.
“These are delaying tactics by plantation companies. However, if the Gazette is invalidated then I am prepared to bring an Act to parliament to enact the daily wage requirement. During the Wages Board discussions the majority of plantation companies agreed to the increase but the detractors are back peddling,” he said.
The gazette was issued last week by Labour Ministry Secretary M.P.D. Mapa after the Wages Board cleared the way on 1 March. Under the gazette, the basic wage has been raised to Rs. 900 and workers will be given an additional Rs. 100 as a budgetary allowance. The new daily wage was to be applicable from 5 March.
In January, a Cabinet paper tabled by the Labour Minister received approval for the salary issue to be decided upon by the Wages Board as the collective agreement was accepted to have lapsed at the end of January.
In February, the matter was placed before the Wages Board after nearly 14 rounds of talks between the trade unions, RPCs and the Employers Federation, talks that had gone on for over two years and still failed to reach an agreement.