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RPCs put the ball in trade unions’court

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Rs. 1,000 minimum daily wage demand

During a meeting last Friday between Minster of Labour Nimal Siripala de Silva and Chairmen of all Sri Lankan Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), a final proposal was submitted towards ensuring a ‘sustainable’ earnings model for tea estate workers, making it the trade unions’ responsibility to take the next action on the long-standing pain point of the industry.

This proposal takes into consideration the sustainability of both the industry and livelihoods of plantation workers, RPCs said.

“After a very productive meeting with the minister, RPCs have arrived at a final consensus on what we can sustainably offer, while providing the highest possible earnings potential for our workers. Our final offer amounts to a 30% increase in earnings on the fixed model, and there is no upper limit to what workers can earn under the productivity-linked components. This is the first step to modernising our entire industry, and moving beyond a basic daily wage system which is a relic of the colonial era and long overdue for an update,” they said.

“We have gone well beyond the Rs. 1,000 daily wage demand of Trade Unions, and this follows a 40% increase from just two years ago. At a time when others in the apparel and leisure sector are slashing wages and retrenching workers, ours is one of the precious few export industries which has shielded our employees from the negative impacts of the pandemic, and is actively pursuing a wage increase. This is no easy feat, and without improvements in productivity, it will still be extremely difficult for any RPC to remain financially sustainable. There is clear understanding from the government on our position, and it is now up to Trade Unions to make the right decision,” Chairman, Plantation Services Group, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon said.

Under the final proposal, RPCs are offering a fixed daily wage of Rs. 1,105, with the re-introduction of attendance and productivity incentives – a feature which Trade Unions had strongly and consistently opposed in the past, but have since reversed their position in the most recent negotiations.

The breakdown is as follows: Basic Wage – Rs. 700, EPF/ETF – Rs. 105, Attendance Incentive – Rs. 150 and Productivity Incentive – Rs. 150. Under the new proposal, workers will receive a substantial Rs. 6,250 increase to their monthly earnings.

Further to the revised daily wage model, RPCs also propose the implementation of productivity-linked earning components to ensure that workers are finally provided effective incentives and are rewarded for increasing their productivity.

The proposed fixed daily wage model will be implemented 3 days a week, and on the remaining days, RPCs have called for one of two productivity-based models to be implemented based on how suitable they would be to each RPC’s unique capacity – enabling workers to earn far more than the fixed Rs. 1,105.

Under the productivity-linked component, employees can earn Rs. 50 (inclusive of EPF/ETF) for every kilo of tea leaf plucked. In the case of Rubber, this would amount to Rs. 125 (inclusive of EPF/ETF) for every kilo of rubber latex.

Alternatively, employees will be remunerated based on a revenue share model, offering greater earnings, similar to what has long been practiced with success in the smallholder sector in Sri Lanka. Companies who do not wish to continue with either of these models, will reserve the right (at their sole discretion), to continue with the standard daily wage system.

Currently, the Cost of Production (COP) of tea amounts to Rs. 615 a day, higher than any other tea producing nation in the world. Out of this, cost of labour accounts for 63% of the total cost of production. With the proposed increase in daily earnings to Rs. 1,105, the COP will increase up to Rs. 730 a day. Unfortunately, increasing cost of production is expected to be met with stagnant prices in local and international markets, further annihilating the economic viability of the industry.

Previously, the auction price of RPC tea reached an all-time high of Rs. 601 per kg on average (USD 3.99) in 2017 and has since plunged to Rs. 581/kg (USD 3.16). However, Sri Lanka’s global market price for tea has become increasingly uncompetitive, especially in comparison to USD 1.94 for tea at the Mombasa auction in Kenya. Competitors like Kenya have seen a significant increase – as much as 50% – in crop output which has resulted in an oversupply in the global tea market, forcing the market price of tea to reduce further.



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More than one-fifth of Sri Lankan workers deployed overseas enter domestic service, data show

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20,368 belonged to the domestic aide category out of the 87,629 Sri Lankan workers who left for overseas employment in August, September and October 2022, External Sector Performance figures show.

By Sanath Nanyakkare

A closer look and comparison between foreign employment figures in Sri Lanka’s External Sector Performance show that in the months of August, September and October 2022, a total of 87,629 Sri Lankans migrated for overseas jobs, out of which 20,368 were domestic aides. Hence Sri Lanka has exported a three-month average of 23.2% of its migrant work force or more than one fifth of its labour resource (mostly poor women) as domestic aides.

Total departures for foreign employment during January-October 2022 were recorded at 251,151 which exceeded the annual departures in pre-pandemic period, according to the latest External Sector Performance report released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL)

It stated that total departures for foreign employment were recorded at 28,473 during the month of October 2022 which comprised unskilled (11,399), skilled (7,887) and domestic aid (6,165) categories.

The October 2022 report stated that workers’ remittances steadied at US dollars 355 million in that month, recording a growth for the second consecutive month, on a year-on-year basis.

External Sector Performance-September 2022 reported that workers’ remittances had increased to US dollars 359 million during that month, in comparison to US dollars 325 million in August 2022, recording the highest monthly remittances up to that point in 2022.

In September 2022, total departures for foreign employment were recorded at 30,084 which comprised unskilled (10,491), skilled (9,391) and domestic aid (7,027) categories.

In August 2022, workers’ remittances stood at US dollars 325 million in comparison to US dollars 279 million in the previous month. Total departures for foreign employment in August 2022 were recorded at 29,072 which comprised unskilled (9,685), skilled (8,590) and domestic aid (7,176) categories in that month.

These figures show that 20,368 individuals entered domestic service out of 87,629 departures for foreign employment during August, September and October 2022.

In other words, more than one-fifth of Sri Lankan workers deployed overseas entered domestic service and contributed to the monthly remittances of about US $ 346 million during August, September and October 2022.

Currently, certain local television advertisements claim that female domestic aids and cooks are paid monthly Rs. 145,000 and Rs.185,000 respectively in countries such as Kuwait.

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Elpitiya Plantations 25th anniversary celebrated with Awards Night

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The leading plantations company Elpitiya Plantations celebrated their 25th anniversary by recognising their employees at a recently held event at Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo. The event was graced by the leadership, shareholders, key clients, employees among other important patrons. The celebration marked 25 years under Aitken Spence Plantation Managements PLC.

The grand event commenced with the lighting of the oil lamp, cutting of the anniversary cake followed by speeches. Given this momentous occasion, it included the presentation of awards and appreciation for employees and key stakeholders that have made a profound impact towards the success of Elpitiya Plantations. The award categories included ‘Long Service’, ‘Productivity Champions’, ‘Horticulture Champions’, ‘Industrial Relationship Champions’, ‘Sustainability Champions’, ‘Special Loyalty’, ‘Trailblazers’, ‘Masters of the Past’, ‘Special Shareholders’, ‘Future Leaders’, ‘Masterminds’ and culminating with the Chairman’s Awards.

In addition to the awards, the anniversary book was launched to mark Elpitiya Plantations epic journey that tells a unique story about “A Metamorphosis in Agronomy”. This odyssey captures the passion, sweat and tears of the last 25 years of the company. The book is dedicated to all those who believed and stood by the company to what it has become today. Marking this ceremonious occasion, the company unveiled their new website (https://www.elpitiya.com/) that shows the diversity of product offering and their quest for the future.

The glistening night continued with entertainment and included a special performance by the Elpitiya Plantations team that was well received by the audience.

Managed by Aitken Spence Plantation Managements PLC since 1997, Elpitiya Plantations PLC owns 13 estates and 17 factories producing tea and other diversified crops. The company embarked on producing four types of berries in Sri Lanka (strawberry, raspberry, blackberries and blueberries), providing these berries to local consumers with a lower carbon footprint, with strawberries and raspberries currently in commercialisation. The company introduced their first retail outlet ‘Harrow House’ at Vauxhall Street (Aitken Spence Tower I) Colombo 02. Elpitiya Plantations embarked on a non-plantation investment with a foreign partner in setting up an adventure park in the Galle district; another pioneering venture in its transformation journey and more to come.

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LOLC Al-Falaah wins multiple golds at the slibfi-awards 2022

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LOLC Al-Falaah was felicitated with two prominent awards within the Islamic Banking and Finance services sector in Sri Lanka, at the 11th edition of the SLIBFI (Sri Lanka Islamic Banking and Financial Institution) awards. Securing the GOLD award for ‘Leasing Company of the Year’ and GOLD award for ‘Window of the Year’ were significant, as LOLC Al-Falaah have won these awards consecutively over the years. Whilst receiving the Bronze award for ‘Entity of the Year’, an innovative product option ‘Wakalah Speed-Draft’ launched earlier in the year secured the Bronze award for ‘Product of the Year’. With the newest additions, Al-Falaah reaffirms the trust placed in them persistently, as the ‘Most awarded Alternate Financial services provider in Sri Lanka.

LOLC AL-Falaah is the alternate financial services brand of LOLC Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka’s largest and most diversified multinational conglomerate with operations in 22 countries in Asia and Africa. The brand dominates the alternate financial services segment in Sri Lanka, as a Strategic Business Unit (SBU) of LOLC Finance PLC (LOFC), Sri Lanka’s largest Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFI). LOLC Al-Falaah, has a strong brand identity and brand acceptance with a history of over 15 years within the industry. Al-Falaah performed strongly in 2021/22 to record an impressive Finance portfolio growth of over 51% reaching Rs. 23.44 Bn from its previous year’s book of Rs. 15.47 Bn while sustaining a Deposits portfolio of Rs. 12.52 Bn. Committed to safeguarding investors, LOLC Al-Falaah has distributed Profits to Depositors amounting to Rs. 735 Mn, and secured a 36% increase in Profit before Tax, demonstrating a strong stature despite the volatile economic conditions during the year.

Commenting on the remarkable achievement Director/ Chief Executive Officer of LOLC Finance PLC, Krishan Thilakaratne said; “these constant awards we receive reinstates that LOLC Al-Falaah is ahead of the curve in terms of market leadership, innovation and trust, under the umbrella of the largest NBFI in the country, LOLC Finance. We compete even with other banks because of its sound portfolio quality which is 100% asset backed. Our non-performing loans too are the lowest in the industry which reflects the credit quality and professional management of our finances”.

Also commenting, Mr. Shiraz Refai, Head of Alternate Financial Services, LOLC Finance said, “Our commitment to ensuring our Customers financial needs are tailor-made to modern-day complex requirements, together with emphasis on determination and attention-to-detail, customer care service offered by LOLC Finance staff are the key reasons that we were honoured by these multiple awards. On behalf of the Team, we’re honoured to receive ‘Leasing Company of the Year–Gold’ and ‘Window of the Year-Gold’ for the third and second consecutive years respectively and recognition for both Entity of the Year and Product of the Year’. I believe that our performance and recognition roots from the trust and confidence that our Customers have placed in us, together with the untiring efforts of our professional staff members.”

The awarding ceremony was concluded on the 14th of October 2022 at Ramada Hotel, Colombo. The awarding body, UTO EduConsult (UTO), an organization with a long-reputed history, has initiated this awarding event to acknowledge and to recognise the efforts made by the Islamic Banking and Financial sector in Sri Lanka. In awarding the titles, the applicants profiles have been reviewed and accessed based on their audited financial data pertaining to the year under consideration, by a reputed panel of judges.

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