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1 Jun 2017

TMC leaders join tea garden protest

TT, May 31: Leaders of different Trinamul trade unions took part in demonstrations held by the Joint Forum in several tea gardens of north Bengal in the past two days to seek the fixing of minimum wages for workers.
The forum is the apex body of 24 tea trade unions and those allegiant to Trinamul are not its constituents.
When the forum had announced the demonstrations on tea estates last week, the Trinamul unions said they didn't support the decision. The demonstrations were held in over 300 gardens in north Bengal yesterday and today.
"A number of local leaders of Trinamul trade unions and supporters joined the protests organised by the forum in several plantations," an INTUC leader based in Birpara said.
Another forum leader said: "Even though top leaders of Trinamul's trade unions are keeping mum over the demand of minimum wages out of compulsion, those working at the grass-roots level cannot afford to stay aloof, particularly when all other unions are joining the demonstration."
Apart from the minimum pay, the forum demands that worker be paid Rs 660 in cash per month as the state government is providing ration to the labourers now.
"Until last year, tea planters used to buy food grains from outside and provide it at a subsidised rate to workers. But after the national food security scheme was introduced, the planters are buying it for just Rs 2 per kilo. Thus, the planters are saving around Rs 660 for each worker's family. That is why we have demanded that the margin be paid to the workers," Mani Kumar Darnal, the joint general secretary of the Intuc backed National Union of Plantation Workers, said.
With such demands, a Trinamul union leader, said it was difficult to stay away and remain silent.
"We don't know about our top leaders but we cannot deny the logic behind the demands of minimum wage and payment of Rs 660 to workers that planters are saving out of ration. At the garden level, it is tough to stay away as these issues are being constantly discussed among workers and their families," said a leader of the Cha Bagan Trinamul Mazdoor Union on Dalmore Tea Estate in Alipurduar district.
Another leader of the same union based in Mujnai Tea Estate said: "How can we simply overlook the protests and demonstrations? If we do not participate, workers would raise questions. Our union is developing support base across the tea industry."
Mohan Sharma, the president of the Cha Bagan Trinamul Workers' Union, however, denied that workers allegiant to the outfits of the ruling party had participated in the demonstrations. "We are working for tea workers but do not want any activity that will affect the industry. There is no information that our local leaders joined protests organised by the forum. Even then, we will check out and in case anybody is found to have violated our instructions, steps would be taken," he said.

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