GUWAHATI, Feb 21 – When uncertainty prevails over negotiations for determining wages of the tea garden workers of the State, the planters’ associations and workers’ unions of West Bengal have signed a wage agreement determining the daily cash wage of the neighbouring state’s tea garden workers for three years commencing on April 1, 2014. The agreement seeks to effect a total hike of Rs 37.50 in three years for the tea workers of the Dooars and Terai regions. However, the Darjeeling tea gardens will pay an additional amount of Rs 5 to each of their workers in the three-year period ending in 2016, said Tea Association of India (TAI) secretary general Pradip Bhattacharjee while talking to this newspaper.
The hike will be effective retrospectively from April 1, 2014 at the rate of Rs 17.50 for 2014, while on April 1, 2015 another annual hike of Rs 10 will be effected. This rate of hike will be followed in 2016 too and it will be effected from April 1, 2016, said the TAI secretary general. The individual tea garden workers of the plains of West Bengal are now getting Rs 95 per day as cash wage, while in the hills of Darjeeling, the daily wage is Rs 90 for each of the tea garden workers.
The agreement also hiked the extra leaf price (ELP) to Rs 3 and Rs 3.50 prospectively from Rs 1 and Rs 1.50. It also hiked the additional compensation to Rs 7.50 and Rs 8.50 prospectively from Rs 4 and Rs 4.50.
The arrears against this new wage structure will be paid in three equal installments. The first installment will be paid by March 31, 2015, followed by the second installment by June 30, 2015 and the third installment by October 30, 2015, said the TAI secretary general.
According to sources in the tea industry here, the wage agreement for tea garden workers of Assam Valley (Brahmaputra Valley) had expired on December 31, 2014. The daily cash wage in the valley’s tea gardens is Rs 95.
Traditionally, in the Brahmaputra Valley, wages of tea garden workers are fixed by bilateral agreements between the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and the Consultative Committee of Plantations’ Associations (CCPA). The ACMS and CCPA already had two rounds of discussion for fixing new wages, which will come into effect from January 1, 2015.
The basic wage structure that governs the tea industry was formulated based on the cash wage as well as in kind. The perquisites are made available to a worker under the purview of various legislations and agreements.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has asked the Labour Department to implement the daily minimum wage of Rs 169 in the State, including the tea industry.
Also, as per the Minimum Wages Act 1948, the wages can be paid wholly or partly in “kind”, said the sources.