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Unions demand solution before polls

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Estate sector trade unions last week said a solution on their wages had to be reached before the general elections adding that they cannot allow the issue to be dragged for months after the expiration of the Collective Agreement.

The Collective Agreement between the trade unions and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) expired in March this year and fresh talks which commenced have made very little progress, unionists alleged. The trade unions denied reports that they were mulling trade union action against the delay in signing of the Collective Agreement. Discussions between the EFC and the trade unions hit a snag owing to the current political situation with the impending general election possibly to be held during mid this year.

“We cannot allow the issue to go on till the election. We will devise a strategy that would expedite the process. We will start work on it during the second week of this month, after the Vesak holidays,” Secretary, All Ceylon Estate Workers Union (ACEWU), J.M.A. Premaratne said.

Speculations of possible trade union action were rife owing to the delay in signing the agreement.

Former Deputy Minister and Vice President of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Muthu Sivalingam told The Nation Gain that there was no truth in reports of unions mulling trade union action at this juncture.

“We do understand that the tea industry is going through a difficult phase. At the same time, the country is also going through a transition period with the implementation of constitutional amendments and the possibility of an election in the near future. Therefore, we should not act in an irresponsible manner by creating more problems,” Sivalingam said.

Chairman, All Ceylon Estate Workers Union (ACEWU) and former Parliamentarian, Ramalingam Chandrasekar speaking to The Nation Gain stated that the workers should not be penalized for the mistakes of the estate owners.

“The majority of the tea plants is over 150 years old and therefore has passed their peak. The companies should take measures to replant and thereby increase productivity. It is up to them to make sure these things happen,” he stated.

“We will not opt for trade union action at the moment, but will wait and see how the discussions progress,” he added.
Accordingly, the discussions have been temporarily halted with no date set for next round of talks.

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