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11 Dec 2017

Hill tea union seeks strike days' pay

BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Siliguri: The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Workers Union, allegiant to the Binay Tamang camp of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, has decided to take up issues like payment of outstanding bonus and wages during the 104-day shutdown and absenteeism among workers.
The plan, sources said, is to prevent Bimal Gurung from trying to revive his support base in the brew belt. Ever since the Morcha leader has gone into hiding, he has raised issues pertaining to tea workers in his audio clips.
"We have received a letter from the state labour department that a meeting will be held at Uttarkanya on December 22 on wage revision. At the meeting, we will demand that the planters clear bonus and pay wages for the period of shutdown," Karuna Gurung, the president of the Morcha union, said on Sunday.
It was only recently that she has been put in the post by Binay Tamang. Changes were also made in some other posts of the trade union, considered as the largest frontal organisation of the Morcha in terms of support base.
An official of the state labour department appreciated the trade union's decision to attend the talks but at the same time said planters were unhappy over poor attendance of workers in some tea gardens.
"It is because of absenteeism that some gardens are finding it tough to run. The trade union of the Morcha has absolute clout over the tea workers in the hills. It can always pick up workers' issues but it should also take up the issue of absenteeism and ensure that workers turn up to help the industry get out of the crisis," the official said.
Karuna said the Morcha had already held talks with workers and were asking them to join their jobs. "But in some gardens, non-payment of a portion of bonus and no decision on wages for four months of the agitation are discouraging workers," she said.

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