Talks to increase Kerala plantation workers daily wages fail again

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 29 (IANS) For the second time in a row, the talks to increase plantation workers’ daily wages from Rs.231 to Rs.500 as demanded by the workers failed to reach a consensus with the estate owners unwilling to accept the hike.

With the talks remaining deadlocked, State Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John said on Tuesday night that this issue will now be brought before the state cabinet during weekly meeting on Wednesday.

It was on Saturday that the first round of talks of the Plantation Labour Committee (PLC) failed and the trade unions called for an indefinite strike by the nearly three lakh plantation workers that began on Monday.

The only estates where a small number of workers turned out for work on Monday and Tuesday was at the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company Pvt.Ltd. in Munnar.

Incidentally it was the nearly 10,000 strong women workers at the KHDP early this month went on a snap strike and after nine days, they were able to get their bonus hiked from 10 to 20 percent and at the reconciliation meeting it was agreed that the PLC meeting will take up the issue of raising the daily wages.

“We are not going to go back on our demand of Rs.500 and if it’s not coming, we will have no other option but to go ahead with our stir. The talks have been going on for some time now. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had assured us that things will be resolved and now we will wait for the cabinet decision,” the women workforce leader Lissy Sunny told the media from Munnar, adding that she worked on Tuesday, but will not from Wednesday.

The demand of the estate owners was that the productivity of the workers in the tea estates should increase the daily tea leaves to be plucked from 21 kgs to 31 kgs.

N.Dharmarajan, president of the United Planters Association of India who took part in the talks, told reporters afterwards that they are surprised about the talk of Rs.500 as daily wages.

“We do not know in whose minds did the talk of Rs.500 as daily wages surface. Such a thing has really surprised us and it has come at a time when the plantation sector is going through its toughest times,” he said, adding he recalled there were times when similar talks have extended as long as 10 months.

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