Posted by: Sujoy Das | August 6, 2011

Tea Industry News: Planters reject daily wage of Rs 130

The Telegraph August 6th 2011
The Bharnobari tea estate on Friday. On Thursday, the manager of the garden, Nanda Kishor Singh, was made to walk more than 2km to the Hashimara police outpost by workers who complained about his alleged highhandedness. Manager Singh had threatened that a lockout would be declared in the garden. But no lockout notice was put up on Friday. Text and picture: Anirban Choudhury

Siliguri, Aug. 5: The despatch of tea from gardens in the Terai and the Dooars was stopped once again this afternoon after talks between trade unions and planters over revision of wages broke down.

An apex body of trade unions has also called a 48-hour strike in the tea sector next week if their demand for a daily wage of Rs 130 a day is not met.

Labour minister Purnendu Bose said another round of tripartite meeting might be called on August 9.

“I might attend the meeting. If the planters remain rigid on their stand, I will have no option but to seek the intervention of the chief minister,” Bose said.

At a tripartite meeting in Calcutta today, planters rejected the demand of the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights, which wants Rs 130 as daily wage for the garden labourers.

The Defence Committee is one of the apex bodies of tea trade unions in north Bengal.

The Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (PTWU), which had initially demanded a daily wage of Rs 250 brought it down to Rs 130 during yesterday’s talks, said intimation to stop the despatch of tea had been sent to the 208 gardens of the region this afternoon.

“We had asked for a daily wage of Rs 130 and were ready to negotiate but the planters insisted on bringing it down further,” said Samir Roy, convener of the Defence Committee.

“So, we have decided to go ahead with our previously announced programme — the strike in the industry on August 10 and 11.”

The Defence Committee has also called a general strike in north Bengal on August 12. “We will appeal to political parties to support us and our strike on the 12th,”said Roy.

The planters admitted that the strikes next week would hit the industry hard. 

“We are aware of the demands and we were ready to negotiate today if they had asked for a rate lower than Rs 90. Buy they stuck to their demand of Rs 130. We made it clear to them that it was not possible for us to pay at that rate and the discussions had to stop,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association.

The workers in the Dooars and the Terai are currently paid Rs 67 a day. The tea union of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had managed to clinch a deal of Rs 90 a day for garden workers in the Darjeeling hills earlier this year, is supporting the agitation of the trade unions in the plains.

Business worth Rs 20 crore is expected to be hit daily if the PTWU goes ahead with its embargo.

The PTWU had imposed a similar embargo on tea delivery from July 26 to 31 when an earlier round of talks on wage revision had failed.

The announcement of strike in the tea sector has also put 25,000 small growers in a spot.

“Around 20 per cent of our produce is sold to the bigger gardens. If the strike starts, we will be left at the mercy of the bought-leaf factories. If the gardens stop production, the BLFs would be the only ones manufacturing tea. We will not get a chance to bargain. At other times, we could at least go to the gardens if the BLFs did not give us the price,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, chairperson of the Confederation of Small Tea Growers Associations of India.

Tezkumar Toppo, a PTWU leader, said his union would support the strike called by the Defence Committee.

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