Workers demand migration to the category of agriculture
The ongoing strike by plantation workers of the Aralam Farm here managed by Aralam Farming Corporation (Kerala) Ltd. (AFCL) under the Scheduled Tribe Development Department has paralysed the plantation activities in the farm already hit by financial crisis.
As many as 33 plantation workers on the muster roll of the company and 10 casual workers from the rehabilitated Adivasi community at Aralam have been on strike for the past one month demanding their migration to the category of agricultural workers and regularisation of casual workers.
The workers have been on an indefinite strike under the banner of joint action committee comprising trade unions affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), and All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
“Plantation workers in the farm are getting a daily wage of ₹321, while the agricultural workers are getting double that amount,” said K. Janardhanan, secretary of the CITU-affiliated union of farm workers in the farm.
The proposal for migrating them to the category of agricultural workers was accepted in principle by the State government two years ago, provided that the farm management should find the resources required for meeting the additional financial burden. He attributed the financial crisis in the farm to its ‘mismanagement.’
According to the farm management, the issue of the ongoing agitation will be discussed at the meeting of the AFCL director board on June 13. The director board meeting to be chaired by the District Collector, who is also chairman of the company, would be preceded by a conciliatory talk convened by the ST Development Director. Union leaders and management representatives would attend.
“The farm is already in a financial crisis because its monthly revenue is not enough to meet its expenditure, including payment of wages,” said AFCL managing director T.K. Viswanathan Nair. The company could clear wages and salaries till April because of the rich harvest of cashew this cashew season as well as pepper yield, he said.
The collection of cashew nuts so far totalled 304 tonnes, he said adding that the nuts were supplied to the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation and Kerala State Cashew Workers Apex Industrial Cooperative Society (CAPEX). The company had already received an advance of ₹4 crore from them for procuring the cashew nuts, he said.
The strike by the plantation workers has hit the rubber tapping works. For doing rubber tapping, rain-guarding works have to be completed, company officials said adding that the agitating workers were not allowing the rain-guarding works which cannot be done now as the rain had already started.
Moreover, in the storm that lashed the areas recently around 600 rubber plants were uprooted.