The Kerala Coir Workers Union has demanded a hike in the subsidy given to coir workers under the income support scheme, besides extending various incentive schemes to the private sector that employs nearly 80 per cent of the workforce.

In a statement given in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, union president G. Sugunan said low wages in the coir sector had pushed it towards a crisis. The income support scheme, under which the Coir Department paid Rs.105 of the minimum wage of Rs.210, was applicable only to coir cooperatives and not private sector units. Now that the minimum wage had been increased to Rs.260, the government should increase its matching contribution to the income support scheme from Rs.105 to Rs.130.

Urging the State government to find a solution to the pressing problems of the workers on the eve of yet another Coir Day, Mr. Sugunan wanted the 10 per cent incentive given to coir societies to be given to the private sector as well. He urged the Coir Department to amend rules relating to membership in the Coir Workers Welfare Fund Scheme. Currently, the worker is required to produce certificate from the manufacture while applying for membership. However, the manufacturers are reluctant to issue such certificates. Earlier, a certificate issued by the panchayat secretary or village officer was enough to qualify for membership. He wanted the State government to permit enrolment of workers in the welfare fund scheme on the basis of the certificates issued by recognised unions.

The Coir Workers Union will take the lead in organising a conference of trade unions to discuss the crisis the sector was facing. The contradictions of demand and supply need to be addressed at the earliest. While coir products continued to command a market, the workers were dropping out owing to the low wage structure. Unless these issues are addressed, the sector would collapse, he said.

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