Tea Unions, Planters lnk 3-yr tea wage pact
PLANTERS AGREE TO ENHANCE EXTRA LEAF PRICE FOR WORKERS
It took trade unions, planters, and the state government seven tripartite meetings to finally hammer out a three-year agreement on tea workers’ wages. Trade union representatives and planters finally inked the accord after a marathon meeting at Uttarkanya here on Friday.
The trade unions, mainly the Joint Forum of 24 unions, agreed to sign the agreement after the state government said it would implement the Minimum Wages Act-1948 (MWA) in tea gardens.
The labour department issued a notice on the MWA on 17 February and constituted a committee of 27 members, including state government officials and representatives from both the trade unions and planters.
Planters belonging to the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA), an apex body of planters, finally cooperated and agreed to put their signatures on the fresh agreement after removal of the preservice conditions.
The planters also agreed to enhance the Extra Leaf Price for workers.
Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who attended the meeting for the first time following instructions from chief minister Mamata Banerjee, labour minister Moloy Ghatak, and trade unions described today’s wage agreement as historic and ‘victory of the tea workers’.
“Today’s tripartite agreement for tea workers’ wages is a historic pact. The state has decided to implement the IVIWA-1948 within two years. If it is implemented, workers will benefit a lot. Though all problems have not yet been solved, I think other issues will be resolved through dialogue,” said Mr Mukherjee.
Minister Ghatak thanked the trade union leaders for their cooperation and said: “It is a victory for the tea workers because they were being deprived of their dues due to the delay in settling the wage agreement issue.”
“The state has constituted a 27-member committee for implementing the MWA. The committee will hold its first meeting on 16 March,” Mr Ghatak said, adding, “Today’s agreement will be declared null and void after the MWA is implemented.”
According to him, workers will be getting wages of Rs 112.50 for the first year, with effect from 1 April 2014. “Planters have agreed to make payments for arrears in three equal installments. In the second year, the rate of wages will be Rs 122.50 and in the third, it would be Rs 132.50,” Mr Ghatak said.
Notably, the wage for the Terai and the Dooars was Rs 95 and that for the Hill workers was Rs 90. Planters in the Hills have agreed to pay an extra Rs 5 for the first year to equal the wages for tea workers in this region.
“We have gladly accepted the agreement and signed it because workers, who have been struggling for the MINA over nine months, will come under the Act though this agreement. We thanked the labour minister Mr Ghatak because he has felt the workers’ demand,” spokesperson of the Joint Forum Ziaul Alam said.
“The ongoing long march, which was started yesterday for the MWA, will be converted into a victory march from tomorrow. We will meet the West Bengal Governor on 28 February in the interest of the workers and demand amendment of the Tea Act and implementation of the government’s flagship projects,” Mr Alam said.
The secretary general of the CCPA, Manajit Dasgupta, said: “We have accepted the agreement gladly. We hope that workers will be inspired to carry out their duties following the implementation of the agreement.”
“We will continue tripartite dialogue to settle other traditional matters to maintain work culture and discipline among workers,” Mr Dasgupta added.