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10 Dec 2016

Tea wages: Cuppa brews in North Bengal gardens

Amitava Banerjee, HT, 10 Dec 2016, DARJEELING: The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU), affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, has threatened to launch an agitation if the state government fails to implement the Minimum Wages Act for tea garden workers by April 1 next year.
Incidentally, every three years wage negotiation meetings are held for tea garden workers.
The last meeting was held in 2014 when daily wages were hiked from Rs 90 to Rs 132.50. The tea garden unions at that time had demanded the implementation of Minimum Wages Act for the tea garden workers. A prolonged agitation was launched by different tea trade unions.
Finally, the state government had agreed in principle and set up a committee on February 20, 2015 to look into this issue. The committee with representatives from the state government, tea garden management and the trade unions is headed by the principal secretary of the labour department. The committee is scheduled to submit its report by February 2017.
Malay Ghatak, state labour minister, during the formation of the committee had declared that justice would be done to the tea garden workers. “The existing wage agreement expires on March 31, 2017. We demand that minimum wages be implemented within April 1, 2017. The state government committee on minimum wages has already held a number of meetings but the outcome of these meetings have not been made public. The state government is maintaining a calculated silence on this issue now,” said Suraj Subba, president, DTDPLU.
The DTDPLU Central Committee met in Darjeeling on Friday to discuss this issue. “Failure of the government to implement the Minimum Wage Act will lead to widespread unrest in the tea gardens. We will also launch an agitation. We will hold meetings at tea gardens in Kurseong, Mirik, Rungli Rungliot and Gorubathan to chart out the roadmap of the agitation” said Subba.

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