TAMIL NADU

Coir workers' stir called off

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, DEC. 27.

The 18-day-old agitation by the workers in the coir sector in the State was called off today following two rounds of discussion their representatives had with the Government last night.

In the first round of discussion, which took up the demands of the trade unions, a committee was set up to suggest the measures the Government should take to sort out the difficulties of the workers and the industry. The suggestions of this committee were accepted by the Government during the second round of the discussion.

The discussion was attended by the Labour Minister, Mr. Babu Divakaran, the Minister-in-charge of the coir industry, Mrs. K. R. Gouri, and the Industries Minister, Mr. P.K. Kunhalikutty.

The meeting decided to increase the purchase price of coir by three per cent and use this additional amount to enable the societies to pay the workers' wages and batta at the existing rates. The new purchase price would be effective from today.

Another decision taken pertained to the reconstitution of the industrial relations committee (IRC) for the coir industry within one month. The decisions relating to the demands put forward by the workers would be taken by the IRC before March 31, 2002.

The Government also gave an undertaking to the trade unions that the Chief Minister himself would take up with the Centre and Planning Commission the issue of re-introducing the rebate on coir products and paying the rebate arrears to the industry.

The State would further press the Centre for lending its assistance under the market support scheme to the coir industry. The State Government would also allot the ``maximum possible fund'' for the procurement of coir products which had piled up with the societies.

The Ministers assured the meeting that they would request the Finance Department to release Rs. 1.25 crores for clearing the pension arrears due to the coir workers. The illegal system of engaging workers on contract basis would not be permitted in the coir sector, they said.

The trade union leaders, according to the Government press release on the discussion, expressed their desire for a full-fledged meeting to discuss the complicated issues in the coir sector. They wanted the Chief Minister himself to convene such a meeting.

They told the Government that it should exert pressure on the Centre to have the Coir Board Committee's recommendations relating to coir depots implemented as early as possible. They also said the Centre should be asked to re-introduce the system of fixing a minimum export price for coir products.