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Wednesday, Feb 20, 2002

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Kerala planters to draft new wage deal

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KOCHI, Feb. 19

THE Association of Planters of Kerala (APK) has decided to terminate the existing wage settlement with the trade unions.

A notice for the termination of wage settlement under section 19(2) of the ID Act 1947 had been issued and a new wage settlement would be reached with the workers taking into account the current financial crisis in this sector, Mr G.J. Ancheril, Chairman, APK, told mediapersons here at a press conference.

He said the steep fall in prices of tea, coffee and natural rubber, on the one hand, and rise in production costs, on the other, had led to the closure of several estates in the State. Many were finding it difficult to pay full wages and other statutory benefits including the PF share.

``At this critical juncture, it is necessary to negotiate a realistic wage settlement,'' he said. Recently the Nilgiris Planters' Association had reached an agreement with the trade unions to cut workers' wages by 10-12 per cent.

``It is only in Kerala that the settlement wages are notified as the minimum wages whereas in Tamil Nadu minimum wages and the settlement wages are different. As compared to the minimum wages of Rs 52 plus per day in Tamil Nadu, it is Rs 70 plus in Kerala despite low productivity. A worker here plucked only 14 kg of tea in eight hours whereas it was more in other States,'' he said.

Mr K.J. Joseph, Secretary, APK, said for improving the price the Government had to promote export of plantation crops through constructive and strategic promotional campaigns.

Besides import of plantation crops should be restricted by means of non-tariff measures, while raising import duty to bound rates.

APK also urged the State Government to amend the Land Ceiling Act (KLR) 1963 and Land Utilisation Order of 1967, so as to enable plantations to take up suitable inter-cropping and to facilitate crop conversion

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