Kerala

TUs up the ante, field women for Munnar agitation

Women leaders of Munnar who are on strike taking a nap at the venue of their agitation at Munnar Junction on Friday; (right) trade union workers lit up a campfire at the venue of their indefinite hunger strike.— Photos: K.K. Mustafah

Women leaders of Munnar who are on strike taking a nap at the venue of their agitation at Munnar Junction on Friday; (right) trade union workers lit up a campfire at the venue of their indefinite hunger strike.— Photos: K.K. Mustafah  

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The five-day-old agitation of plantation workers entered a new phase with six women leaders of the Joint Action Council of trade unions launching an indefinite hunger strike on Friday.

Plantation workers turned out in large numbers at the venue of the agitation from the morning hours itself. The women will continue their protest until the police remove them from the venue of the protest.

New volunteers will continue the protest, trade union leaders said.

The workers are awaiting the outcome of the meeting of the Plantation Labour Committee (PLC), which is to decide on the wages, to be held on October 5.

The day witnessed intense activity at Munnar Junction, the hub of workers’ protest, with members of Pengal Otrumai, the women’s collective, too stepping up their separate campaign.

A protective shelter was set up for the women at Munnar Junction away from the venue of the agitation of the trade unions.

A few women police constables were posted at near the venue. But the indecisiveness of the leaders of the Pengal Otrumai about the hunger strike continued with some in support of extending the fast into the night and others opposing it.

Traffic snarls marked the day at Munnar Junction as vehicles carrying tourists have started arriving at the hill station in large numbers.

With hardly 48 hours left for the crucial PLC meeting, unofficial parleys to end the strike in the plantation sector too have gained momentum.

Shibu Baby John, Minister for Labour, said unofficial negotiations were being held with the stakeholders to arrive at a settlement. However, a compromise formula is yet to be arrived, he said.

CPI(M) leader M.M. Mani said the wage hike demand was one raised by all trade unions countrywide during the September 2 strike.

The demand is for a minimum monthly wage of Rs.15,000 to a worker, or Rs. 500 a day.

However, C. Vinayaraghavan, chairman of the Association of Kerala Planters, said the industry cannot afford the demand as it would work out to around Rs.700 a day including other statutory payments the planters have to make.

It’s a three-year wage agreement that was signed in the plantation sector, he maintained, adding the planters can at best offer a 10 to 15 per cent hike similar to other sectors.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 10:53:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/tus-up-the-ante-field-women-for-munnar-agitation/article7718129.ece

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