Ganeshan challenges supremacy of CWC in plantations


By Franklin R. Satyapalan

In what is seen as a clear challenge of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress’ age-old supremacy, 18 Plantation Trade Unions were in discussions on establishing a new Plantation Trade Union Federation to deal with the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) from a position of strength to negotiate new wages for plantation workers.

The move to form the new federation is being spearheaded by Democratic People’s Front (DPF) Leader Mano Ganeshan.

Ceylon Workers Congress has been the biggest Plantation Trade Union and has dominated Plantation Politics in Sri Lanka since independence.

CWC leader, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Mutthu Sivalingam said that he had read in the Tamil newspapers that a new Plantation Trade Union Federation was in the making and that one of the Parties had said they should not include the CWC in it.

"We are a strong Party with the largest membership, which has continued to be involved in negotiating the Collective agreement of the Plantation workers, along with the UNP affiliated Lanka Jathika Estate Workers’ Union (LJEWU). We constitute the majority and if anyone believes they can challenge the CWC let them try," Sivalingam said.

The DPF Leader said "We are determined to establish this new Plantation Trade Union Federation before the next round of negotiations on the Collective Agreement with the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon in March 2013".

The DPF Leader, who is the convener of the new Federation said "that he had commenced discussions with tea and the Rubber Plantation Workers towards forming such a federation."

"In the recent past we have been very much perturbed about the lackadaisical attitude of some of the signatories to the Collective Agreement, such as the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union and the Joint Plantation Trade Union Consortium (JPTUC) when it comes to discussions on the wages and the living standards of the plantation workers, Mano Ganeshan said adding that the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon had always maintained an upper hand attitude when it came to negotiations.

"We are working out a strategy with the International Labour Organization for this new plantation trade union federation to forge links with other trade Unions in the local and the international scene," he said.

Ganeshan maintained that the current collective agreement had not provided a living wage to the workers, who had been confronted with the spiraling cost of Living during the last two years.

"For example, the prices of flour and bread, the staple food of the plantation worker were jacked up five times during this two-year period whilst their wages remained the same and all that we want is to undo this injustice to poor Plantation workers," he claimed.

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