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21 Jun 2018

Tea unions unite on wage

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Jun 20, 2018 Darjeeling: Seven Darjeeling tea trade unions cutting across party lines decided on Tuesday to jointly campaign for minimum wages.

The unions, including those of rivals Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), agreed to the decision at a meeting organised by the Joint Forum. The forum is a conglomeration of 24 unions but does not include Trinamul-aligned groups.

The minimum wage demand has been pending since 2015. The Bengal government has formed a panel to look into the issue. A garden worker now gets a daily wage of Rs 160.

Other unions part of Tuesday's decision included those of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist, Jana Andolan Party (JAP), CPM, the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League and the Congress.

#"The meeting was historic in the sense that all major unions from the hills decided to work together," said Ziaur Alam, CPM leader and forum convenor.

The Morcha had a couple of years back convened a meeting of the forum but many hill unions had skipped it. "However, from today, there is unity," said Alam.

The forum has decided to organise public meetings in Mirik on June 24 to press for minimum wages. "On June 27 and 28, we will submit a memorandum to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)," said Alam. Morcha leader Binay Tamang heads the GTA.

This will be followed by meetings at gardens in early July. The union leaders ruled out strikes. "We want peace to be maintained," said Alam.

Karuna Gurung, president of Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, said all groups would "work jointly" on minimum wages. "On other issues, every party can work independently."

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