Raising wages of plantation workers tough: Kerala minister

Kozhikode, Sep 15 (IANS) Kerala’s labour minister on Tuesday said it would be a tough task to raise the daily wages of the state’s plantation workers from the present Rs.231 to Rs.500.

Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John’s comments came ahead of the Plantation Labour Committee (PLC) meeting on September 26 to discuss the hike in daily wages of the workers in the plantation sector. However, he later clarified that the amount is not something which cannot be raised.

He said it was very easy for Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan to say that the minimum wages should be increased to Rs.500.

“He is playing to the gallery by making these statements,” said John.

“One has to be realistic as everyone knows that the tea and rubber plantations in Kerala are going through a difficult phase because of the decreased productivity and high costs. It is a tough task. In states like Assam and West Bengal, the minimum wages is around Rs.100,” said John.

A nine-day protest by more than 7,000 women plantation workers in Munnar demanding better conditions in terms of bonus and facilities ended on late Sunday after the demand for a bonus was accepted by the plantation company.

The deadlock was broken after day-long consultations were held in Kochi. The discussions were led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and attended by his cabinet colleagues, trade union leaders and representatives of the workers and the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) Company Private Limited.

At the meeting, it was decided to hike the bonus from 10 percent to 20 percent. Also, it was decided that the PLC will meet to take up the case of increasing the daily wages.

The committee meets once in three years to discuss an increase in the daily wages of plantation workers in the state.

Achuthanandan hit back at John’s comment and said: “John is batting for the company officials… there is no point in holding the PLC meeting under John and Chandy should instead lead the meeting. John is unfit to sit in the chair of the labour minister.”

Experts said the rubber and tea sectors in Kerala were going through a very bad phase and both sectors would see losses if a plan is not chalked out at the September 26 meet.

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