Last year workers were given a wage hike of 58%, employers say

The Cashew Manufacturers and Exporters Association has called upon the Labour Minister Shibu Baby John and the Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) to announce a justifiable bonus for cashew workers. The IRC is meeting on Wednesday at Thiruvananthapuram to reach an agreement on this year's bonus per cent for the cashew workers.

At a press conference here on Tuesday, the association leaders said in the cashew sector there was an unhealthy trend of fixing bonus without understanding the ground situations. Often politicians and trade union leaders strive to get a bigger bonus for cashew workers and make political capital out of it. President of the association Baldwin Austin said that last year, cashew workers got a 58 per cent hike in wages and benefits. On the revised salary, the usual bonus of 20 per cent and ex gratia of 1.5 per cent would be too taxing on the industry. Last year's bonus of 20 per cent and ex-gratia of 1.5 per cent worked out to Rs.8,600 per cashew worker. He said that the industry was prepared to pay that amount this time too. It meant that bonus should be fixed at 13.6 per cent. If last year's yardstick was applied the industry would have to pay about Rs.13,000 as bonus and ex gratia to each cashew worker this time. The industry would not be able to shell out that amount, he said.

General secretary of the association A. Abdul Salam said that fixing the bonus for cashew workers should be in accordance with the situation prevailing in the industry. But, the industry had been following a fixed pattern for years. He said that usually, when there was a salary hike for employees, the bonus per cent was trimmed accordingly. Though the price of cashew kernels had soared by 60 per cent over the previous year's price, the price of raw nuts had more than doubled. With the wage hike coming into effect, the cashew industry was facing crisis. There was tough competition from Vietnam. Decisions taken should ensure the health of the industry and its continuing existence in Kollam. He pointed out that a notable portion of the industry had migrated to neighbouring States because of the conditions here.