A tea estate shut its shop at Siliguri after it was unable to pay wages to its workers. At least 3,000 employees lost their jobs after the owners of Trihana Tea Estate, issued a notice mentioning their inability to run the estate during this period of demonetisation.
The owners even escaped from the factory fearing labour unrest. The labourers witnessed a locked management room at the estate on Friday morning.
The local administration learnt that the labourers did not receive wages for four weeks and started to express their dissatisfaction over the administration.
They even staged a demonstration on December 7 and threatened the management officers of confining them in their respective offices.
“The management has created this situation intentionally. They could spend the cash to give weekly wages. But they are scared to do so. They reserved those cash to run their business, instead of paying salaries to the labourers,” alleged workers.
The union of the tea estate has informed the matter to the state labour department. “A joint secretary of the labour department assured us of solving the situation,” said a union leader.
However, demonetisation had so far hit the work culture of various industrial sectors – tea trade not an exception in North Bengal.
The owners of many tea estates were compelled to shut their shops as they were unable to pay salaries to the workers. The labourers, working there had gone for a cease work following management’s decision to pay salaries with old notes.
Earlier, the workers started cease work at Alipurduar’s Turturi tea estate. But it was not a standalone incident as the North Bengal tea industry has been facing severe problems soon after Centre’s decision of demonetisation.
Scrapping Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes has brought out a serious challenge for the tea industry in North Bengal as managements of several plantations were in a fix about how to pay the garden labourers on time, while labourers who received wages recently in old notes, do not know what to do with the money.
This dual challenge has created immense problems for the owners of the gardens.
The gardens in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars faced severe problems as well. A number of tea gardens, which are supposed to make fortnightly wage payments in the next two-three days, have already withdrawn cash from banks, mostly in these two denominations. They are in a dilemma that they cannot disburse these notes among the workers.