No excuse for RPCs says Thondaman

Jeevan Thondaman

Staying true to his promise, Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Jeevan Thondaman did succeed in convincing the authorities- including the Wages Board- to increase the estate worker’s salaries from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1700. 
“The daily wage of Rs. 1700 was agreed upon following consultations between trade unions and workers,” he said speaking to the Daily Mirror. “We also benchmarked this on the recommendation of Fair Trade International and their Living Wage Index. Many of these RPCs and their tea brands claim to be Fair Trade and ethical, therefore the least they can do is to meet Fair Trade International’s own Living Wage recommendation,” said Thondaman. 

He further scrutinised certain RPCs for continuing to exploit estate workers without paying them for their work. “We must also remember that when the earlier Rs. 1000 daily wage was set, the Dollar was less than Rs. 200. Estate workers were therefore getting US$5 a day. When the Rupee depreciated to about Rs. 365 to a Dollar, RPCs enjoyed an over 80% increase in their Rupee revenues. However, none shared this benefit with every worker that enabled them to achieve this. Whereas RPCs enjoyed a revenue bonanza, workers saw their real incomes halved in dollar terms and inflation ate into their disposable income. This caused over 50% of the plantation community to plunge below the poverty line. The Rs. 1700 daily wage still sets daily wages around US$ 5 a day. There’s really no excuse for RPCs to refuse to pay this. They are now required to do so by the law. If they challenge this in Court, then we will take it up there. But as a Government and as trade unions we have all done our part,” he added.

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