SRIKAKULAM: A daily turnover of a whopping Rs 1.5 crore is being affected with cashew exports taking a deep hit due to the ongoing strike by 16,000 workers in the cashew factories in Palasa region of the district. The workers have been on strike for 11 days now.
The road tax imposed by the Telangana government has only served to compound the situation by spurring both the workers and the factory managements into sticking to their guns, the former on their demand for a 70 per cent increase in their wages, the latter against willing to grant it. Further, lack of intervention on behalf of the officials has also added to the existing problems.
The export units in the Palasa-Kasibugga region have remained shut since April 1. The workers associations have said that they would not budge till the managements agree to their just demands.
The 240 factories in the district are the livelihood of entire families and many women. The workers have been demanding 70 per cent hike in wages and implementation of welfare schemes, and resorted to the strike after factory managements repeatedly declined to meet their demands.
Cashew nut Workers Union leader, Simhachalam, said that the workers were requesting the managements to implement the wage agreement. “We are also asking the officials to intervene and solve the problem,” he added.
Previously, talks between managements and workers unions’ representatives ended in failure. The managements said that they had already been paying high wages and paying 70 per cent more was just impossible, said the union leader. They were ready to concede 10-15 per cent wage increase. Against this background, the workers have been continuing their strike, Simhachalam said.
Cashew Factories Association secretary Malla Suresh Kumar ruled out wage hike in the current circumstances. The managements will now have to pay 7 per cent tax on exports to Telangana state. Given this new expenditure, the workers had been informed that the present wages would continue for one more year, Suresh Kumar said. However, workers continue to allege that the managements continue to make huge profits year after year, with proof being that the number of factories has risen to 300.
Cashew Factories Association (Palasa-Kasibugga) president Malla Srinivasa Rao said that it was not good on the part of workers to go on strike at the beginning of every cashew season. He said both the managements and farmers had been incurring heavy losses. While the managements are not able to export cashew nuts to other states, increasing wages becomes impossible, the president said.
Cashew factory workers unit general secretary Ambati Krishna Murthy said the managements had been violating labour laws without paying proper wages. There were also no proper amenities in the factories. Women workers have lost their livelihood though the managements are making bumper profits. The managements are only shedding false tears, Krishna Murthy alleged.