Sri Lankan plantation workers end strike action under protest
15 December 2018
Thousands of plantation workers ended their recent wage strike yesterday, two days after the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the main plantation union, ordered them to end all industrial action on December 12. Workers greeted the union’s “return to work” order and betrayal of the strike with angry demonstrations in provincial towns and estates.
The strike for a 1,000-rupee daily wage—a 100 percent increase of the current 500-rupee ($US2.80) rate—began on December 4. Demonstrations, marches and rallies took place in plantation areas across the country, including Nuwaraeliya, Badulla, Kandy, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kalutara and in Colombo district.
The CWC called the strike, not to mobilise workers to win higher pay, but to dissipate workers’ intense anger over the collaboration of the unions with estate management and Sri Lankan governments to impose starvation-level wages and miserable working and living conditions.
CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman announced the end of the strike on Tuesday, claiming that President Maithripala Sirisena had promised him and other leading union officials in a closed door meeting that he would resolve the wage dispute at a discussion with the plantation companies on December 19.
Thondaman is politically aligned with Sirisena and was given a ministry position in the cabinet appointed by Sirisena after he unconstitutionally sacked United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on October 26 and replaced him with former President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Rival plantation unions, such as the National Union of Workers (NUW), Democratic People’s Front (DPF) and Upcountry People’s Front (UPF), are aligned with…