Labour union stops dispatch of first flush tea over unpaid dues
Darjeeling: The Himalayan Plantation Labour Union (HPWU), affiliated to the Gorkha National Liberation Front has stopped the dispatch of premium first flush manufactured tea from the Rangili-Rungliot tea estate in Darjeeling, protesting against the non-payment of dues to the tune of more than Rs 1.5 crore accumulated since 2011.
"The management of the tea estate has not paid the second instalment of bonus as per agreement, along with other dues. Despite repeated requests the management has turned a deaf ear. We have stopped the dispatch of manufactured tea from the garden since April 14", stated JB Tamang, general secretary of HPWU.
The dues include gratuity, provident fund, leave travel allowance, salary, wages, staff kitchen allowance, JCO and tea makers salary, medical bill and LTA of temporary workers.
"Till February 14, 2018, the accumulated due was to the tune of Rs 1,45,76,481. Dues have continued accumulating since then. Gratuity has not been paid since 2011", added Tamang.
HPWU on Wednesday had submitted memorandums to the District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and the Assistant Labour Commissioner of Darjeeling calling for legal action to be taken against the management.
"If the management pays the 2nd instalment of the bonus and part of the pending dues we will allow the dispatches. However, if they try to commence dispatch forcefully, we will stop the dispatch till the total due amount is paid up", cautioned Sudesh Rai, branch president of HPWU.
The union has made an appeal to other trade unions to join the agitation in order to create adequate pressure.
The tea estate has 350 workers and around 100 staff and sub staff. It produces 1,60,000 kg of tea annually.
The trade Union had earlier threatened to stop the dispatches of manufactured tea in all the 87 tea gardens, if the gardens fail to give the stipulated fringe benefits to the workers by April 21. "As per the Plantation Labour Act, workers working for 120 days in a year are entitled to fringe benefits. However, the management of the gardens is only providing fringe benefits to workers who have worked for at least 180 days. This needs to change. Till now, no tripartite meet has been called to resolve this issue. We will stop dispatch of tea in all the tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills from April 21 if our demands are not met", threatened Tamang.