Plantation workers’ talks on wages again on Monday

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 4 (IANS) Representatives of plantation labourers will take part in talks with the Kerala government for the third round on Monday to resolve the demand to increase workers’ daily wages from Rs.231 to Rs.500.

The first two rounds of talks failed to end the deadlock.

The talks — between the Plantation Labour Committee (PLC) and the government — would be held against the backdrop of hunger strikes going on in Munnar in Idukki district.

In Munnar, around 10,000 women labourers, working in various tea estates owned by the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company Pvt. Ltd., have launched a relay hunger strike.

The joint trade unions are also sitting in protest, and five workers are on an indefinite hunger strike demanding that daily wages be increased to Rs.500.

“We are all waiting to hear good news tomorrow (Monday) regarding our daily wages,” said a women worker at the protest venue.

Kerala’s Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John is leading the government’s side. The talks would have representatives of the trade unions besides estate owners.

Meanwhile, at an informal meeting of estate owners held on Sunday, the demand for Rs.500 as daily wages was again shot down.

N. Dharmarajan, president of the United Planters Association of India, told the media on Sunday that in no way the wages can be fixed at Rs.500.

“The question of raising the wages to Rs.500 is in no way acceptable and it cannot happen. Due to the protest by the women labourers last month for nine days, we suffered a huge loss and that loss is mounting now,” he said.

The state government has asked additional chief secretary K.M. Abraham, who is also the finance secretary, to prepare a report on how the issue can be sorted out.

Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan in a statement issued here on Sunday said the estate owners and the government were hand-in-glove to deny the basic needs of the workers.

“The situation in Munnar is bad. The sooner a solution is arrived at, the better it is as things might even go out of hand,” the CPI-M leader said.

As the local body polls are scheduled to take place in the first week on November, the workers expect that the government will be keen to see that a solution is reached as there are three lakh plantation workers whose votes will be crucial.

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