Chunthung Tea workers skip Meeting

The labour commission’s efforts to broker peace between the management and workers of Chungthung (Chongtong) tea estate in Darjeeling fell through with labour unions choosing to give the tripartite meeting a slip.

Though the district administration has decided to take its own course of action to look after the welfare of the workers, joint labour commissioner Rabi Rasailey today convened the meeting here, in keeping with Industrial Disputes’ Act, to come to a solution.

Workers refused to come to the meeting citing two previous instances when the Siliguri-based owners did not attend the tripartite meetings called by the Darjeeling assistant labour commissioner in the hill town because of “threat to their security from workers”.

The estate, which has been locked since January 13, was in news recently after Baburam Dewan, its former employee and a social worker, committed suicide to highlight the plight of the labourers.

The management, represented by officials of Terai Group of Companies and its subsidiary East India Produce Ltd and Terai Indian Planters’ Association, submitted several proposals to Rasailey. The company agreed to increase the workers’ wages to what was fixed upon at the July 25 meeting in Calcutta. “We are willing to increase the wages and provide all statutory benefits to workers,” said V.D. Dua, group superintendent, Terai Group.

The management, however, has laid down some conditions. “The benefits will be offered only if the workers agree to work for eight hours a day instead of five, as it is now. They will have to stop stealing green leaves and selling hand-rolled made tea in local markets, which has brought down the estate’s tea production from 4 lakh kg five years ago to 2 lakh now,” Dua said. The officials also talked about laying off regular absentees and unproductive workers.

Raseily said a tripartite meeting will be held soon after he has a discussion with the workers.

The district administration, as a first-of-its kind measure, has decided to hand over the functioning of the garden to a managing committee comprising representatives of all hill parties.

Source > The Telegraph