ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Munnar Upheaval

Women workers pose questions to managements, trade unions, political parties--and men.

The nine-day strike earlier this month by more than 5,000 women workers of the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) company in Kerala’s Munnar tea gardens has sent reverberations through the trade union movement of the state and unsettled the plantation sector as well.

The demands of the workers were straightforward—a small hike in the annual bonus from 19% of annual wages last year to 20% this year (as against the KDHP management’s decision to reduce the bonus to 10% citing poor market conditions) and a doubling of daily wages to Rs 500 from the currently meagre Rs 175–Rs 250. The basic daily wage of the women workers who carry out the crucial tea-picking operations is Rs 83, which with allowances can add up to around Rs 250 for 10 hours of work a day. The women are expected to pluck 20 kg of tea leaves during their working day. In actual practice they work up to 12 hours and pluck (and transport on their backs) up to 60–70 kg in order to increase their pittance of earnings. This back-breaking work for long hours inevitably has an impact on the health of the workers.

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