Trade unions demand wage hike for workers in tea gardens

Five major unions of tea garden workers, under the forum of United Tea Workers' Front (UTWF), have demanded the wages of workers be hiked from Rs 95 per day to Rs 322. The five unions include Terai Dooars Progressive Plantation Workers Union, Darjeeling Doars Plantation Labour Union, Progressive Tea Workers Union, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and New Trade Union Initiative.

"From the existing Rs 95 per day, they are demanding Rs 322 per day along with other cash benefits to be indexed according to inflation and revised every six months. They are also demanding all wage and non-wage benefits be extended to seasonal workers as well and the vacant posts be immediately filled and garden management must support skill enhancement and training of workers," social activist Anuradha Talwar, who convened the press conference in Kolkata, said.

Jyoti Topna, a senior member of the Progressive Tea Workers' Union said it was not possible to continue with such a paltry sum. "How do the employers think that we can make ends meet?"Suraj Subbah, general secretary of Darjeeling Doars Plantation Labour Union said the raise the tea garden employees get was ridiculous. "A raise of Rs 2 to 5 is what we get. It is funny. We want the government to intervene and provide us a permanent solution," he said, adding they have demanded an industry-wise wage fixation above a minimum living wage, maternity benefits for all women tea workers, setting up of sexual harassment committees in all gardens, crèche, shade and toilet facilities, pensions and coverage under ESIS.

The forum has also demanded the new wage agreement be done in Siliguri and not in Kolkata and have planned a series of campaign programmes.

On January 17, a meeting of all garden-level panels will be held at Birpara. On January 24, a mass meeting will be held demanding the new wage negotiation be completed by March 31, 2014. and a mass deputation be submitted on February 5.

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