Darjeeling Hill tea workers to get 19.75% bonus
Darjeeling: A hurricane meeting at Uttarkanya in Siliguri, held on the directions of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, made positive headway to resolve the issue of annual bonus for the Darjeeling tea industry.
The stakeholders agreed on 19.75 percent bonus. However, till the filing of this report, the number of installments that the bonus would be disbursed was not agreed upon.
The meeting had commenced at 2 pm at Uttarkanya, the mini Secretariat near Siliguri, with different tea garden unions; the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) representing the management and the State Labour Commissioner attending it. Negotiations continued well into the night with all the sides agreeing to give 19.75 percent bonus. The Darjeeling Tea Association then stated that as soon as the gardens would become operational, bonus would be disbursed immediately.
This led to a war of words with the tea unions demanding that the DTA clarify what they mean by "immediate." With the DTA's remark that bonus would be disbursed in four installments after the gardens become operational, a fresh round of debate ensued. Darjeeling Himalayan Plantation Union affiliated to the GNLF demanded that 20 percent bonus be paid in a single installment. The representatives of the trade union affiliated to the GJM demanded 20 percent bonus but added that they would agree to two installments — one before Dussehra and the other before Diwali.
The CITU-affiliated trade union also demanded that bonus be paid in a single installment. With differences in opinion, the DTA representatives walked out allowing the unions to sit among themselves and come to an understanding regarding the number of installments.
There are 87 tea gardens in the Darjeeling Hills. Incidentally, all the gardens have remained closed for the past three months owing to the ongoing indefinite bandh called by the GJM in support of Gorkhaland. However, three days ago around five gardens had become operational in the Kurseong belt. Last year, the gardens had received 19 percent bonus. Representatives of unions affiliated to both the Bimal Gurung and
Binay Tamang factions of the GJM; GNLF; CPIM; TMC; JAP and the CPRM attended Thursday's meet.