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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 17:08 GMT
Sri Lanka tea strike called off
Tea plantation
Tea is important for the Sri Lankan economy
The main tea unions of Sri Lanka have called off a damaging two-week strike which officials say brought the industry to a virtual standstill.

Union leaders say they have secured a pay rise for 40,000 tea estate workers, who earn less than $2 a day.

Under the deal, their wages will go up to $2.40 a day - a 33% pay rise, but still less than the unions demanded.

Most tea workers are the descendants of Indian Tamils brought to the island by British colonialists as cheap labour.

"The union leadership has agreed to the deal. Now we have to sell its benefits to the workers in the field," member of parliament P Radhakrishnan told the Reuters news agency.

Shortfall

Mr Radhakrishnan is a central committee member in the Upcountry People's Front, which represents about 50,000 plantation workers.

"I expect my people to be back at work by Friday," he added.

The head of Sri Lanka's Tea Board told Reuters last week that the strike would reduce the island's 2006 tea crop to around 300m kg from a forecast 315-320m kg.

Sri Lanka harvested a record 317.2m kg of tea in 2005, making it the world's fourth largest producer behind China, India and Kenya.

Correspondents say that tea plays an important role in the Sri Lankan economy, and is a major foreign currency earner, bringing in $600m last year - more than the $450m brought in by tourism.

Tea producers warn that while the strike may be over, prices will have to be raised to make up the shortfall.




SEE ALSO
Indian Tamils to win citizenship
11 Jul 03 |  South Asia
Tamil refugees unclear about return
06 Jan 03 |  South Asia
Tamils demand better treatment
23 Feb 99 |  South Asia
Timeline: Sri Lanka
30 May 03 |  Country profiles

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