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Salt pan workers demand job security

Staff Reporter

Tuticorin: Though the rise in wages for salt pan workers seems encouraging, other demands for ensuring job security are much sought after among workers, who solely rely on salt pan operations.

Wages have been increased to Rs. 190 for men and Rs. 180 for women.

More than 50, 000 people in and around Tuticorin aredependent on salt pans for their livelihood. The new regulations would remain effective for two years from now, M.S.A. Peter Jebaraj, President, Gandhi Irwin Salt Manufacturers' Association, Tuticorin told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

Previously, daily wages of Rs. 156 for men and Rs. 146 for women workers were given. During the lean period following rainfall, the workers were provided with financial assistance in advance and later the sum would be deducted, accordingly. Salt production was carried out on 25, 000 acres across Tuticorin district and around 350 firms were involved in the trade, Mr. Jebaraj added.

“The manpower required for discharging duties in salt pans is on the declining trend,” K. Ponraj, District President, Salt Workers (CITU), says.

A hike of 21 per cent in daily wages has been effected. “We sought a remuneration of Rs. 230 for men and Rs. 220 for women but the manufacturers refused it citing the unprofitable selling price in the market. The workers were happy but factors to ensure job security should be implemented in their interest,” he adds. There is a demand for relaxation of minimum wages fixed by government.. “The government had fixed minimum wages of Rs. 90 along with Rs. 30 as dearness allowance, but the manufacturers should ponder over the expenses in the present scenario and provide enhanced assistance for the workers,” Mr. Ponraj says..

While workers engaged in construction and load men earn more than Rs. 350 a day, the salt pan workers were not content with enhanced wages.

“Even after toiling under the scorching heat, we were destined to earn only Rs. 190 a day,” S. Pattu, a Tharuvaikulam-based salt pan worker said.

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