Plantation workers have always supported the UNP – Tissa

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake has voiced hope that plantation workers would support the common opposition candidate in the Presidential election next month.

These workers have always supported the UNP in the past, he pointed out.

Attanayake was addressing the second annual convention of the Ceylon Workers Alliance (CWA) at the Nuwara Eliya New Town Hall recently.

More than 4,000 delegates, both men and women, from different parts of the country attended the meeting.

Opposition parties have taken the January 26 Presidential Election as a challenge and they are confident of winning it, Attanayake said, adding that a new government will also be formed after the general elections to be held by April.

He said that people were suffering hardships because of the high cost of living. Attanayake claimed that he went around the town and inquired about the price of ‘Parippu’ from people and they told him that a kilo was being sold for Rs. 250. When questioned further, he was told that they have to visit "the kitchen of Minister Bandula Gunawardene to find a cheaper rate."

CWA’s newly-elected president S Sathasivam, lashed out at the signatories to the estate workers’ collective agreement.

He said unions, including the UNP-oriented the LJEW Union, had betrayed the plantation workers as they were yet to receive the wage hike, promised under the collective agreement.

Sathasivam also said plantation families were suffering because of inadequate earnings and the high cost of living and urged both the government and the employers to raise the wages by Rs. 500 to avert any trade union protests in estates.

Former Minister P. P. Devaraj said the Alliance is a formidable force in the plantations and it should lead the estate workers on the right path, with great responsibility and dedication.

Devaraj said that while he was a Minister, together with Sathasivam, they highlighted the need for fair distribution of Pradeshiya Sabhas in the hill country.

He lamented the fact that the plantation sector that has a population of 600,000 did not have enough number of Pradeshiya Sabhas. Devaraj also called for more Grama Niladharis to be appointed in estates and urged workers to rally round the CWA to achieve their goals.

The convention also unanimously adopted the following resolutions.

1) Increased daily wages of Rs. 500 per day; 2) Good quality tea for workers including the retired people; 3) EPF loans for housing, without interest;

4) Higher education facilities including an Open University for estate workers’ children; 5) Better sanitation facilities for houses and the right of ownership;

6) Better medical facilities and appointment of qualified personnel to government hospitals in estates and 7) Absorption of educated children in plantations to the estate staff cadre.

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