Agri Business

Kerala plantation workers stir intensifies

KPM BASHEER Kochi | Updated on January 22, 2018


Fourth round of wage talks fail; woman worker attempts self-immolation bid

The agitation for wage hike by plantation unions in Kerala turned a little melodramatic on Thursday when a woman tea-leaf plucker at Munnar, the nerve centre of the agitation, attempted self-immolation even as the entire town observed a hartal in support of the 11-day-old strike.

Elsewhere in Kerala, roads were blocked at several places by the joint council of organised trade unions, which spearhead the agitation for the wage hike (from the current ₹232 a day for tea workers) to ₹500.

The unions have decided to intensify the agitation against the backdrop of the failure of the fourth round of talks on Wednesday between the plantation managements and the unions.

In Munnar, Samudrakkani (42), a member of the AITUC-affiliated Devikulam Estate Workers Union, who was sitting in dharna at the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations’ Lakshmi South Estate, doused herself with kerosene but other women workers prevented her.

Suicide bid

Planters’ sources dismissed the ‘self-immolation bid’ as a stunt. But, union sources said the agitating women were distressed at the failure of the fourth round of talks between the plantation managements and the trade unions to end the strike.

On Wednesday evening, the government-facilitated negotiations had failed to break the deadlock.

In Munnar, the merchants’ association observed a hartal in support of the workers.

Other sections of business people and service providers also joined in the hartal and the tourist town came to a standstill as all the shops and restaurants remained closed and the vehicles were off the road.

Two streams of agitations are going on in Munnar for the same demand. One is by the Pompilai Orumai (also called Pengal Ottrumai), a loose association of women tea-leaf pluckers at the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations. Their agitation is independent of that of the joint council of organised trade unions.

On Thursday, two Pompilai Orumai workers going to participate in their dharna were attacked by the union activists.

The two were hospitalised while the police arrested eight members of the joint council.

Huge loss

A KDHP source told BusinessLine that the agitation had so far caused a production loss of nearly ₹25 crore.

He claimed that even if the strike ends tomorrow, the total loss to the company that would precipitate for three to four months to come, would be around ₹ 80-100 crore.

He noted the company could make a profit of only ₹5 crore in the past year, and ₹15 crore in the year before.

Published on October 08, 2015

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