Agri Business

Kerala plantation workers set to receive wage hike of ₹52/day

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on December 18, 2019 Published on December 18, 2019

Industry sources say that prices of all plantation crops are on a southward movement   -  KK Mustafah

Labour panel approves pay increase in tea, rubber, cardamom and coffee sectors

Workers in Kerala’s plantation sector are set to receive a wage increase of ₹52 per day, with the Plantations Labour Committee deciding to hike wages in the tea, rubber, cardamom and coffee sectors.

The wage increase will be with effect from January 1, 2019. However, the interim relief given to workers from February this year will be adjusted and the arrears will be distributed before March 31, 2020.

A decision to this effect was taken at the Plantations Labour Committee meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram under the chairmanship of State Labour Minister TP Ramakrishnan, where members of the Association of Planters of Kerala (APK), trade union leaders representing workers and State government officials were present.

The meeting also took note of the crisis being faced by the plantation sector in the State, especially after the floods in 2018 and 2019, and subsequent landslides.

Per the new wage agreement, the daily wages of tea workers have been increased to ₹380.38 from ₹328.38. This increase in the basic salary, coupled with other statutory benefits, will result in a total daily wage of ₹600.

For the rubber sector, the new salary will be ₹460.40 from the current ₹408.40. The total emolument, with other statutory benefits, will be ₹723 per day. The wages of cardamom workers have been increased to ₹409.38 from ₹357.38 per day, and the total salary, with all the statutory benefits, will be ₹642.73 per day. In the coffee sector, the new wage will be ₹385.38 from the existing ₹333.38 per day. The total emolument would come to ₹602 per day.

“The plantation industry is going through one of the worst financial crises. However, as responsible employers, we are committed to improve the life of workers and have agreed to provide a wage increase so as to meet the aspirations of the workforce even in these difficult times,” said BP Kariappa, Chairman, APK.

Crisis ahead?

However, industry sources pointed out that the prices of all plantation crops are heading southward, without having shown any improvement in the past few years. If the drought is prolonged, crops may be down in the first quarter of the next fiscal, they added.

Climate change has already started making an impact on production due to the high incidence of pests and diseases. If the drought persists, the sector has to incur additional costs for irrigation. If there is no significant increase in the prices of commodities, plantations may plunge into a deeper financial crisis.

Sources said the average auction price of Kerala CTC (crush tear, curl) tea, which was ₹127.06 per kg in April 2017, was just ₹102 per kg in September 2019 — a drop of nearly ₹25 per kg. Because of the decline in prices, the financial sector is unwilling to extend support to plantations, citing viability issues, sources added.

Published on December 18, 2019
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