18-year-old misery of Peermade tea company workers


It was in the year 2000 that the owner of the Thiruvananthapuram based tea company abandoned the high range leaving behind two factories, 2,700 acres of estate and 2,500 labourers

Upputhara: On December 13, the miserable life of labourers of the Peermade Tea Company Limited will be 18 years old. It was in the year 2000 that the owner of the Thiruvananthapuram based tea company abandoned the high range leaving behind two factories, 2,700 acres of estate and 2,500 labourers.

It was the first incident in Kerala where the owner of a tea production company had abandoned his firm due to financial crisis. Following this, other 17 large scale estates were either closed down or abandoned. As the tea company did not get a market, it failed to fetch good price for its products in auctions competing with other branded companies. Thus the production cost escalated and revenue decreased which finally resulted in closure.

Moreover, global recession, inappropriate estate management and disagreements between estate owners fuelled the crisis by 1995. As the company faced loss, it denied salary and benefits to its labourers which prompted the workers to stage protests, besiege the office and block superintendents of the company on roads. Finally, with no way to run the company, the owner abandoned the firm on December 13, 2000.

Then, the company had 1,333 permanent workers, nearly equal number of temporary workers depended on the estate and 33 office staff. The owner had abandoned the company without providing bonus for two years, salary arrears for eight months, gratuity of many retired staff and other benefits to the workers.

This derailed the lives of the workers; their children’s education, marriage and treatment of family members dependent on them came to a grinding halt. Many, including girls, left the region looking for better jobs to make a living. The remaining workers continued by plucking tea leaves under various trade unions.

Though the other 17 large estates that were closed down after 2000, were re-opened at various stages, the Peermade Tea Company didn’t. Over 60 discussions held were in vain. Once, after holding a meeting in the presence of minister, the estate was leased out. But that too proved to be a failure after a year.

Now the labourers pin their hopes on the state government’s promise that the company will be opened in January. But with the trade unions, including those associated with the ruling party, demanding settlement of labourer's dues before the company was opened, doubts have clouded the minds of the workers. These families pray that their miseries will come to an end soon and life will take a turn for the better.

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