Tea planters urge unions not to disrupt operations in Bengal
Kolkata : Amid ongoing agitation in tea gardens of Dooars and Terai in West Bengal, planters on Tuesday appealed to workers' unions not to resort to disruptive activities while discussions on minimum wages are on.
"The unions have taken to agitation during the peak season. We appeal to them not to resort to disruptive activities... We feel it is unjustified as the issue is pending at the government level," Indian Tea Association's Secretary General Arijit Raha told reporters here.
Regular gate meetings at the garden in Dooars and Terai during the morning hours since July 2 had resulted in production loss, he said.
A July 23-25 strike notice has been given by the workers unions.
"The government convened a meeting on July 4 in Siliguri and subsequently appealed to all unions not to resort to gate meetings or strike work since the issue of minimum wages is under discussion," Raha said, adding that planters are concerned about the "adverse development".
Tea production in June was down by 10 per cent, he said, adding that production in West Bengal fell by almost 9 per cent in 2018 as per ITA crop estimates.
"Unless normal operations are restored, this will further bring down the production," Raha said, adding that Darjeeling unions had fortunately decided not to take part in the proposed strike.
In fact, 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.
"The state 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. These have already been implemented by the managements," Raha said.
Usually, wage agreement for tea workers is executed for a three-year period and the last agreement had expired on March 31, 2017.
According to Zia-Ul-Alam, Convenor of Joint Forum of Trade Unions, an umbrella organisation of trade unions working in the tea sector, and Citu's General Secretary (tea industry), unions protested against the minuscule hike in minimum wages.
As many as 10 rounds of discussions of the Minimum Wages Advisory Committee have been held so far but no decision had been forthcoming.