No strings attached Minimum Wage regime demanded

9 Dec 2016

The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, the primary trade union of the tea gardens in the hills, wants has the state government to implement minimum wage before April 1, 2017 without negotiations and revisions, as is the norm usually followed.

Wages of tea garden workers are revised every three years after rounds of negotiations between the management and trade unions. In the hills, the wages were revised in 2014 after a Minimum Wage Implementation Advisory Committee (MWIAC) was formed comprising 24 members representing the garden management, trade unions and the state government.

“We want the state government to straight-away implement the minimum wage in the tea gardens instead of holding negotiations and revision meetings. We have the MWIAC that was established by the state government and they should see to it that the minimum wage is implemented before the three-year period expires in April 2017,” asserted Suraj Subba, general secretary of the DTDPLU, today.

Since the last revision of wages, three rounds of meetings of the MWIAC have been held till now. But no concrete conclusion has been reached. And the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha affiliated union wants the state government to come up with a rate preferably within February. "Every three years in February, negotiations are held and accordingly, new wages are implemented in April. We, however, feel it unnecessary to just hold negotiations and revision meetings,” Subba said.

Workers were receiving Rs90 per day as wages till 2014, prior to the existing rate of Rs132.50 that was revised after much deliberation between the management and the unions of the 87 tea gardens of the hills.

Following demonetisation, most garden workers have yet to get their weekly, and in some cases, fortnightly wages since November 8. In addition, they still have to get their puja bonus which has been kept pending by the owners, as rate negotiations failed to come to a conclusion.

The management refused to budge from 19 per cent, a climbdown by 1 per cent, which was not accepted by the trade unions. However, after several rounds of meetings, the stakeholders agreed on 19 per cent, which was to be distributed in two phases (during and after the puja).

The DTDPLU today warned of launching protests if the state government fails to fix the minimum wage within February. “We will start agitation programmes at the end of this month in different places across the hills to create pressure on the state government. We will also involve the Dooars,” said Subba. (EOIC)