Voluntary Pension Scheme For Plantation Employees

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A pension provides you with financial security when you retire, as well as benefits for your family and loved ones thereafter. When an employee retires, they are paid in an annuity calculated by the terms of the pension. The EPF, ETF and the gratuity payments cover this need as a statutory need in Sri Lanka. The major portion of it in the private sector is contributed by the employer.

The pension scheme for plantation employees discussed here is a social security plan paid monthly to the retiree until death and to any dependent of the nominee of the retiree upon their death. Such employees’ provident schemes are popular in India.

EPF, ETF and gratuity payments made to plantation employees are lump sum payments, and these payments made to the manual worker category are ending up in the hands of their caretakers (usually their children) on the promise that they will look after the retiree until death. Sadly, the promise is broken immediately after the money, meant for the parents’ welfare, is stolen and it is no secret. These senior citizens become invalid coins thereafter.

Life after retirement

The darker side of their life begins then and the poor parents are left with the choice of work elsewhere as domestics or bear somewhat inhuman treatment by their own children.

Having toiled their entire life, which we consider as a true sacrifice, to support their offspring and the national economy at large being a notable foreign exchange earner, the life after retirement of most manual grade employees becomes gruesome until they retire from life on earth. Some are praying for the last day to come early which is widely known amongst the community.

Financial constraints after retirement are somewhat common to rest of the categories of employees such as the executives and the staff as well. Having to maintain two houses; residential quarters provided by the plantation and rented or owned houses to educate their children, requires a major portion of the salary hence poor savings during the employment.

Exodus of labour

Outmigration has become a grave issue with the devaluation of the Sri Lankan rupee. Domestics are now earning more than Rs 100,000 per month abroad. This must be compared with an average manual worker in the plantations earning about Rs 30,000-40,000 per month. These monthly earnings are fluctuating due to political and environmental factors.

Outmigration or brain drain of scientists serving in crop research institutes is another issue heavily affecting crop performances of the plantations industry. The situation is common for employees in the Ministry and those in connected organisations assisting small holders.

To save the industry…

Plantation employees’ voluntary pension scheme needs wider support and recognition by all who are interested in the survival and the sustainable growth of this important forex earner to the national economy.

Some of the Regional Plantation Companies have addressed this issue by establishing retirement housing schemes with common facilities provided to manual grade employees maintained by the company.

The Plantations Human Development Trust (PHDT) has understood the dire need and had obtained the approval of the Planters Association and the Ministry of Plantation Industries to initiate discussions with the Social Security Board of Sri Lanka with the view of commencing the scheme from August 2022. The Lalan Agri Divisionof Lalan Rubbers Pvt Ltd has coordinated the gigantic initiative.

The Social Security Board (SOSEBO) has been established by the Act No. 17 of 1996 dated 26th July 1996 and had been amended by Act No. 33 of 1999.

The SOSEBO has been empowered by the Act to establish pension and social security schemes for those who are engaged in, self-employment, informal sector, and other non-government pensionable sector. The aim of the SOSEBO is to ensure social security for a dignified nation. The SOSEBO is entrusted with the task of formulating, executing, and regulating provisions and policies aligned to practices of good governance to ensure social security of Sri Lankan citizens strengthening the economy and protecting cultural values, incorporating strategic alliance with government and non-governmental organisations towards sustainable development for a dignified nation.

The PHDT is a tripartite organisation consisting of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) and Plantation Trade Unions (TU) formed by the GOSL to implement social development programmes to enhance the quality of life of one million workers in the estates managed by the RPCs.

We the Ceylon Planters Society committed to secure and promote the professional and personal interests of Planters, while endeavouring to cooperate the sustainable growth of the plantations industry welcome the initiative of plantation employees pension scheme which is a correct intervention into the right direction.

Lalin I de Silva – (Former Senior Planter/Agricultural Adviser and consultant/Editor of the Ceylon Planters’ Society Bulletin, Free Lance Journalist)

Email;- [email protected]

By Lalin I De Silva- Secretary General Ceylon Planters’ Society