Featured image by Vikalpa
For five days, estate workers have been holding a hunger strike in front of the Fort railway station, asking for a Rs. 1000 basic wage.
Currently, the workers receive Rs. 500 as a basic wage. Additional allowances, tied to productivity, attendance, and weight means they currently receive around Rs. 800 to Rs. 900 daily.
The Planters Association of Ceylon meanwhile says that providing such an increase is impossible, due to the conditions in the global market. Instead, they are offering the unions representing worker’s interests a Rs. 100 increase of their basic wage. This, taken together with their productivity and other allowances, they say, will give workers more than the Rs. 1000 they are asking for.
However workers say they are often treated harshly by their supervisors, who often find excuses to not provide workers with the extra allowance for plucking over 22 kilogrammes of tea (such as, for example, reducing for water weight).
Many of the estate workers are members of the Malaiyagha Tamil community, who fled oppression from India over 100 years ago. They were disenfranchised through the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948. Today, they continue to face numerous barriers to accessing basic services such as education and nutrition, as explored in our series marking 150 years since Ceylon tea was produced.
On day 5 of the hunger strike, Vikalpa and Maatram provided live coverage.
View a Twitter Moment compiling their coverage and other conversations around the wage negotiations, here or scroll below.