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Tripartite meet settles Rs 17.50 hike in tea garden worker wage

Darjeeling: A tripartite meeting between the state government, management of tea gardens and Joint Forum of Trade Unions of Tea Industry of West Bengal (a conglomeration of 26 tea trade unions), resolved to hike the daily wages of tea garden workers by Rs 17.50 as an interim arrangement till wages are not fixed under the Minimum Wages Act. The revised daily wages will now be hiked from Rs 132.50 to Rs 150.
The 8th round of talks held at Uttarkanya, the mini secretariat in Jalpaiguri, was attended by Malay Ghatak, minister in charge of Labour and ESI department, government of West Bengal.
"Every three years, the wages of tea garden workers are revised. The last revision agreement expired on March 31, 2017. A committee has been constituted by the government to look into the implementation of minimum wages. In the meantime, we have come up with an interim hike of Rs 17.50, which will be implemented from this month. Arrears will be given from April 2017. This will be in affect till the minimum wage issue is resolved. The management has agreed to this," claimed Ghatak.
The minister stated that meetings for minimum wages will continue. The Joint Forum has been agitating for the implementation of minimum wages and the inclusion of ration wage component in the wages.
"Earlier, the management used to distribute food grains in subsidised rate as a ration-wage component. However, now the state government is distributing 35kg of food grain per worker under the National Food Security Act. We will sit in meetings after the budget session of the Assembly to incorporate the ration wage component," added Ghatak.
Sources state that the meeting could be held on February 12 or 13 and that the management has agreed in principal to the inclusion.
The meeting was attended by all the organisations representing the management of the tea gardens of North Bengal. They, however, abstained from commenting on the issue.
"Management claims that it is difficult to implement the Rs 17.50 interim hike as the Darjeeling Hill tea gardens will not agree," said Zia-Ul-Alam, coordinator of the Joint Forum.

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