Legal action against the Management at MerryView

Siliguri: Hundreds of workers of Merryview Tea Estate, 20 km from here, are contemplating legal action against the management for its non-compliance of the bipartite agreement on the opening of a renovated garden factory.

The garden, located in the Naxalbari belt with a plantation area of 479 hectares and a workforce of 546 permanent labourers, was purchased by Tezpur Tea Company Limited in 2004.

“After the new management took over, a bipartite agreement on March 17, 2004, decided that the management would deduct Rs 4.10 from the wage (Rs 45.90 at that time) of each permanent worker everyday. The deduction started from April 1, 2004, and continued till March 31, 2005, as per the agreement,” said Aloke Chakravorty, the joint general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers.

“Not only that, proportionate deductions were also made from the salaries of five clerks, two medical, two technical and 43 sub-staff members for the same period. The intention was to use the accumulated amount along with the contribution of the management for refurbishing the factory in 2005. The factory, however, remains closed from the first day of the takeover,” the trade union leader alleged.

Workers of the garden, which produces around 15-16 lakh kg of tea annually, now want their money back.

“We had parted with our wages to help the management in its attempt to make the garden viable. The management, however, has failed to keep its word,” said Albis Tigga, a worker.

Chakravorty said the management has been given a deadline of May 15 within which they will have to start work at the factory or else face legal action.

Reacting to the allegations, U.B. Das, secretary of Terai Branch of the Indian Tea Association of which Merryview is a member, said: “It is true that the workers had contributed a portion of their wages. But at the same time, they need to consider the ongoing crisis in the industry. Once things improve, the management will surely consider the issue.”

Intuc plea

The Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers has written to the state labour minister requesting him to take over the closed Kanthalguri and Ramjhora tea estates via the West Bengal Tea Development Corporation, reports our correspondent.

Union secretary Pravat Mukherjee said: “The lease of Kanthalguri and Ramjhora expired in 2004. Now that the government is the owner of the two gardens, it should be its responsibility to stand by the workers.”

Source: The Telegraph