Nominal wage increase leaves Kerala plantation workers disappointed

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Representative Image: AFP

Kalpetta: Hope quickly turned into disappointment for plantation workers like AV Shaji at the Chelode estate, Vythiri. The Plantation Labor Committee's decision to implement a nominal wage hike of Rs 41 per day, which came in the evening, brought despair and frustration among workers.

Currently, plantation workers in the state face deplorable wage and service conditions. The wage for a worker stands at a meagre Rs. 432.65 per day. At the recent Plantation Labor Committee meeting in Thiruvananthapuram, a hike of only Rs. 41 was approved. However, the workers demanded a minimum wage of Rs. 700.

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Shaji expressed his disappointment, saying, "Years ago, we fought for a significant wage increase during a major strike that involved road blockades. However, the compromises made have only favoured management, citing a so-called crisis. We have been suffering for a long time, and the hike we received was insufficient compared to the 17-month-long negotiations."

Workers who earn a monthly salary of only Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 9,000 by plucking tea leaves shared their struggles. They revealed their wage slips, indicating the dire situation they face. However, for fear of repercussions, they chose to remain anonymous and not disclose specific estate names. They questioned how they could sustain a livelihood with such meagre earnings and expressed concerns about providing proper education for their children.

In addition to low wages, many estates suffer from severe drinking water shortages and a lack of other basic facilities. Open drains further exacerbate the already miserable living conditions for workers.

Furthermore, in most places, workers are denied essential benefits such as medical assistance and proper work clothing. Cases regarding the withholding of gratuity and retirement benefits are pending in estates.

Workers at Elston Estate in Kalpetta have been on strike for months, demanding unpaid wages. However, they claim that the wage hike decision was made unilaterally without considering their grievances.

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