Bengal tea garden strike on hold in wake of announcement

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Kolkata, July 23 (IANS) The proposed three-day strike from Monday at the tea gardens in West Bengal’s Dooars and Terai region has been kept on hold till July 30, as the state “assured” workers’ union of the minimum wage announcement by that day, a union leader said on Monday.

The July 23-25 strike notice had been given by the workers unions demanding settlement of the minimum wage issue at the earliest.

Usually, wage agreement for tea workers is executed for a three-year period and the last agreement had expired on March, 31 2017.

The West Bengal government proposed an interim hike of Rs 17.50 to increase the remuneration from Rs 132.50 to Rs 150 with effect from January 1, 2018.

Unions had protested against the “minuscule hike” in the interim measure.

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“The state assured us to announce the minimum wage by end of this month and it is supposed to announce it on July 30.

“A draft on the structure of minimum wage was shared in the latest meeting. We have urged the state Labour Department officials to include electricity, fuel cost along with socio-cultural cost component in the minimum wage. These were missing.

In view of this, unions took a resolution to keep the strike on hold till July 30,” Convenor of the Joint Forum of Trade Unions, an umbrella organisation of trade unions working in the tea sector, and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary (tea industry) Zia- Ul-Alam told IANS.

The state has also introduced interim payment of compensation on account of savings on the procurement cost of foodgrains at the rate Rs 9 per day per worker from May 1, 2018.

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In a recent wage advisory committee meeting, the state government, planters, unions’ representatives had discussed the component of minimum wage and a draft structure was placed in the following tripartite meeting.

Tea planters had appealed to workers’ unions not to resort to disruptive activities while discussions on minimum wages were on.

Indian Tea Association’s Secretary General Arijit Raha had said the agitation programme called during the peak season and regular gate meetings at the gardens earlier in July in Dooars and Terai had resulted in production loss.

–IANS

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