The state government has urged tea garden owners to take a final decision whether the amount that they are saving by paying less for subsidised rice will be given as wages to workers or not.
A tripartite agreement in this connection was held on Thursday in which state Labour minister Moloy Ghatak along with senior officials of the department, representatives of both tea garden workers and owners interacted.
According to sources in the state Labour department, this step has been taken on the backdrop of the long-standing demand of tea garden workers to ensure minimum wages for them.
After the change of guard in the state, wages of tea garden workers have increased to Rs 142 from Rs 67.
There is a separate agreement according to which tea garden owners give rice at a subsidised rate to tea garden workers. Recently, the tea garden workers' associations have pointed out that the owners need to invest less to give rice at a subsidised rate to workers. The reason being the cost at which the workers need to buy rice has gone up.
The state government distributes rice at Rs 2 per kg among workers of closed tea gardens. The workers of open tea gardens get rice at more subsidised rates and it is given by their employers.
Now, the workers' associations have placed their demand stating that the employers should include the money that they are saving for giving less subsidy to their wages.
In the tripartite meeting that was held on Thursday, the matter has been discussed and the next meeting in this connection will be held on May 17.
Before that, the state Food department and the state Labour department would assess the total savings that all the owners had been doing for drop in the subsidy rate.
At present there are around 3 lakh tea garden workers in the state who work in 276 tea gardens.
Six tea gardens have closed since the Left Front regime and in some tea gardens work gets suspended for a few months in a year.