Over 4.5 lakh tea workers in Bengal to go on strike

2017-06-14     Source: indiatimes
Over 4.5 lakh tea workers in West Bengal are going on strike next 12th and 13th with many other movement plans in agenda on demand their wage structure settlement. The issue, remaining unsettled for over last three years, is gradually pushing the whole industry towards a major uncertainty.

“Along with this 48 hour long tea workers strike in entire tea belt in northern West Bengal on 12th and 13th, we request everyone there to make it a general strike on the 13th. The strike will be followed by other movement steps until the issue does not find any acceptable solution,” said Saman Pathak, a leading functionary in the movement and CITU Darjeeling District Secretary. Barring few trade unions like INTTUC of Bengal’s ruling party TMC, almost all trade unions including CITU have formed a joint forum to fight on the issue.

Joint forum wants abolition of the 40 years old system of wage negotiation once every three years. On expiry of one such three years long term on 31st March 2014, it raised demand of payment as per Minimum Wage Act.

Following initial strong opposition and a yearlong tug of war, state Government allowed an interim wage hike and formed a committee to propose modalities of minimum wage to Government’s Minimum Wage Board by six month. But, the issue remained stuck there without any further major development while another wage term got expired on 31st March 2017.

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While talking to ET on this, veteran planter from Darjeeling Sanjay Bansal said, “A strike at this peak second flush production period can only hamper the industry interest. And, beside cash wage, a worker receives many non cash components like health, shelter, fuel or food grain. Cash value of all these put together is already much higher than what can be figured out as per Minimum Wage act. As a major stakeholder workers should understand it.”

Being in the same line, Chairman, Terai Indian Planters Association K. K. Mintri said, “Government and Trade Unions both should realize that planters cannot keep on absorbing all kinds of load. On reaching threshold, they will become compelled to shut down operation.”

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