DOOMDOOMA, Oct 9 - Employees of seven tea gardens of James Warren Tea Ltd (JWTL), namely Dhoedaam, Deamoolie, Tipuk, Balijan (H), Rajah Ali, Zaloni and Thowra strongly protested non-implementation of tripartite agreements and non-compliance of the Plantation Labour Act (PLA) by the tea major.
To protest against the anti-labour policies of the tea company, the employees of the seven tea gardens of the company convened an organisational meeting under the banner of Asam Chah Karmachari Sangha (ACKS) at Dhoedaam TE Staff Club here on Sunday. The meeting was chaired by Achinta Kumar Deb, supervisor of Registered Office (RO) of JWTL.
Explaining the objectives of the meeting, Jitendra Baruah, one of the convenors of the meeting illustrated various anti-labour policies adopted by the company. Representatives of the garden units of ACKS of the seven tea gardens of the company raised various problems faced by them.
Addressing the meeting, Girish Chandra Borpatra Gohain, the lifetime general secretary of ACKS central committee expressed surprise that nobody was aware of JWTL’s division from its parent company Warren Tea Ltd. What is surprising, although its RO is situated at Dhoedaam TE, no permanent executive has been appointed in the office by the company. At the same time it had abolished the managerial posts of the tea gardens one after another.
Borpatra Gohain reiterated that revenue collection and employment generation were the prime consideration behind setting up of any industry. He lamented that although tea production had doubled from 300 million kg in 1969 to 600 million kg at present, the work force alarmingly decreased in spite of the fact that the plantation acreage had been sufficiently increased. It seems that the tea industry is now heading towards a non-organised sector as the Government had taken away the power of collective bargaining from the trade unions.
Exhorting the employees to unite in the face of all sorts of provocations, the ACKS general secretary appealed to them to raise the issues before the management so that ACKS in turn could take up those as industrial dispute.
On healthcare facilities, he said that although as per PLA, tea companies should provide garden hospitals and group hospitals, not a single group hospital is there in any part of the State in spite of having 800 tea gardens. He termed the introduction of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) as a public-private partnership in the tea gardens of Assam as a total failure. He expressed deep concern at the latest move of the tea companies to introduce low-cost medicine in the garden hospitals in lieu of branded ones.
The ACKS leader also termed the present announcement of the tea gardens paying 20% bonus to the workers as an eyewash against paying 8.33% as bonus and the tea companies were paying the remaining 11.67% as ex-gratia.
According to the verdict of the Supreme Court, bonus has been termed as ‘deferred payment’ to be paid by the companies to its workers from its profit earned. But the tea companies in Assam have been showing the ex-gratia payment under expenditure head, thus finally deducting it from their profit earned, Borpatra Gohain added.
Besides a few ACKS leaders, the meeting was also addressed by senior journalists Arjun Baruah and Dhiren Deka from among the public. Six resolutions were adopted in the meeting which will be submitted to the higher authority of the company later.