THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the Plantation Labour Committee (PLC) meeting is scheduled on Saturday, the association of planters has made it clear that giving Rs 500 as daily wages to plantation workers is not possible.
C Vinayaraghavan, chairman, Association of Planters of Kerala, said on Friday that since profit was low, the demand could not be accepted. “If they went ahead with the strike, we will be forced to close down the plantations,” he said.
He said that in Kerala the production cost was more than the profit. “The productivity is also low. It is much lower than in Tamil Nadu and Assam,” he said. Besides, the tax rate was also high in Kerala, he added.
Vinayaraghavan said that the allegation that daily wages in the plantations was Rs 232 was not true. “In addition to this amount, other benefits to the tune of Rs 106 are provided so that each labourer gets Rs 338 per day. We have always increased the salary whenever we could without any provocation. But the situation is not favourable to raise the income as they have demanded,” he said.
He also highlighted the reason as to why Kerala is lagging behind in tea production. “The tea produced in Kerala is consumed by the people in the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border areas. The quality of tea is not that good because of the prevailing climate. We cannot sell tea in North India as the demand for tea produced here is much lesser when compared to Assam tea. Also, Kenya is in a position to supply tea the world over. We have to compete with these people,” he said.
Vinayaraghavan also said that they were ready to compromise if the government offered some support.
“At a time when panchayats have funds for projects like rural housing, why is the government reluctant to cover plantation workers under such projects? It would be really beneficial if the government could meet such costs incurred by workers (under some project),” he said.