Cross was established to organise female workers at rubber plantations in the province of Kerala, in the South of India, to fight against exploitative work conditions and to claim their labour rights. In collecting the rubber sap (latex) from the rubber tree, there are six main steps involved. The first step, making an incision in the tree’s bark from which the latex then flows, has been work for men for decades. The reason is unknown, but could be the ‘knife’, the symbol of power, or that it is the easiest work compared to the rest of the process. Any healthy woman could do it. The other five steps are considered simple and meant for women. For tapping one tree, a man is paid 20 paise per tree. For doing the rest of the work, a woman is paid 10 paise. The ‘logic’ is, as the men say: ‘we are men and they are women.’
The women began to demand equal wages and hours, to be allowed to tap the rubber and to receive the same benefits as male workers. Cross organised demonstrations in which more than 4000 woman plantation workers participated. In the wake of the demonstrations and widespread media attention, representatives of the Ministry of Labour met with the Cross leaders and negotiations started. Cross subsequently forged an alliance with women’s organisations throughout Kerala, and they were collaborating to gather information about the working conditions of women in Kerala. A statewide demand for economic justice was made to the Ministry of Labour.
Cross received a grant from mama Cash in 2007.