BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
General Secretary of the People’s Workers Union (PWU) said women in the estate and plantation sector trade unions, particularly in the tea industry, were not empowered through proper education and training to take up leadership and participate in policy and decision making.
PWU General Secretary Attorney-at-Law Eliyathamby Thambiah said women were the majority force playing the leading role in most aspects of production like tea picking, weighing and measuring.
He said even if women were involved they were merely there for the namesake and were made members of trade unions for the subscription fees they provide and ultimately used for the purpose of canvassing during elections.
Such women could not be faulted for doing so as the political system in place and the fundamental organizational structures of trade unions, do not allow for them to do otherwise.
“Women’s salaries are more or less equal with those of males. Yet, women have more duties. Men are mainly involved with sundry work and are off by 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., whereas women leave home early in the morning to do weighing and measuring work and get off only at about 5 p.m. This is coupled with having to do family work and household related chores, like cooking and looking after the children.
In the history of plantation and estate sector trade unions, there have been one or two prominent leaders, mostly men and a handful of women in the central committees of the trade unions.
The few who are there are converted to working for electoral politics. In the nomination lists of political parties at the recently concluded general election women were not given their share to be involved in policy and law making in Parliament. There is not much development with regard to female participation and the matter is not treated seriously.
Yet, women have been at the forefront of trade union uprisings and strikes during the period of colonial rule and also the independent regimes that followed,” Thambiah observed.