Bengal tea workers forced to accept interim wage hike, say unions
Kolkata: Protesting against the hike in the daily wages of tea garden workers by only Rs 17.50 in Bengal, central trade unions on Friday accused the state government of delaying finalising the wage agreement and forcing workers to accept the interim relief.
A joint forum comprising Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Trade Union Coordination Centre, United Trade Union Congress and All India Central Council of Trade Unions has threatened to intensify the protests unless wage agreement is finalised at the earliest.
The West Bengal government announced the interim hike to increase the remuneration of tea workers' from Rs 132.50 to Rs 150 with effect from January 1, 2018.
"We are against this interim hike of Rs 17.50. The state unilaterally announced this as an interim measure without discussing it in the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee. Joint Forum of Trade Unions in the tea sector opposed this and did not accept. Now, state government, local administration are forcing workers to accept this hike," CITU leader Anadi Sahu told reporters here.
Usually, a wage agreement for tea workers is executed for a three-year period and the last agreement had expired on March 31, 2017.
Sahu also alleged tea garden owners with support of state government had stopped rations, as a part of wage, and started giving ration from the Food Security Mission Programme.
"Tea workers are supposed to get Rs 660 per month as a value of ration that they used to get earlier. Unfortunately, workers are still deprived of this," he said.
About 4.5 lakh tea garden workers in the north Bengal are in distress, INTUC leader Ramen Pandey said.
Trade unions also demanded reopening of 30 gardens which were shut down.