Jute industry unions announce protests for wage hike, clearing dues

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Kolkata, March 7 (IANS) Demanding minimum monthly wage of Rs 18,000 and clearance of dues of statutory benefits, some 21 trade unions operating in jute industry in West Bengal on Tuesday announced a two-month-long protest.

“Jute Industry is vital in the state as about 40 lakh raw jute cultivators and 2.5 lakh workers are involved in the industry. For smooth running of the industry and betterment of the workers, a tripartite agreement was arrived in April 2015.

“Mill owners have not been honouring the terms and conditions of the agreement and state government too is not monitoring it,” said CITU affiliated Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Union’s General Secretary and state’s former Labour Minister Anandi Sahu.

West Bengal produces about 85 percent raw jute in the country and more than 83 percent jute mills in India are in the state.

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Federation of Chatkal Mazdoor Union Joint General Secretary Pranesh Biswas said ESI and provident fund contribution was deducted from employees but not remitted to the appropriate authorities.

Shu said that there was an outstanding (amount) of Rs 480 crore for gratuity, Rs 120 crore for provident fund and Rs 90 crore for ESI and a mill-wise outstanding list was already submitted to the Union Textile Minister in the last October but nothing has changed.

Trade unions leaders also said a survey done by National Jute Board pointed out that 70 percent of workers’ wage was about less than Rs 5,000 a month.

“We have been demanding the minimum wage of Rs 18,000 a month and clearance all the dues,” said Paschim Banga Chatkal Mazdoor Federation state General Secretary Debdas Chatterjee.

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Unions also alleged that mills “were importing jute bags” from Bangladesh to meet the government’s requirement and also blamed Central government for the ailing condition of the jute industry.

“Diluting Jute Packaging Materials Act, 1987 frequently and ordering for synthetic bags after non supply of government’s orders by the jute mills in the state caused serious crisis for the industry,” said Sahu.

Meanwhile the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh-affiliated Bhartiya Jute mazdoor Sangh’s leader Ram Suraj Giri also asked why the state government has not applied JPM act for packaging food grains and potato in the state.

During this month, the unions announced they would conduct conventions in the districts and in April, organise meetings at mills’ gate while a massive demonstration of jute mills workers will be organised in May.

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