Duncans charged for cutting down tea wages

Jaigaon: The Congress-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) has alleged that provident fund deductions from the wages of workers have been reduced in 14 tea gardens owned by Duncans across the Dooars, Terai and the hills.

“During the months of May and June the company has deducted 10 per cent of the workers’ wages as provident fund instead of the regulation 12 per cent. This means they will get far less than their statutory dues at the time of retirement. I have faxed a complaint to the central and regional provident fund commissioners in Delhi and Jalpaiguri respectively about the discrepancy,” said Pravat Mukherjee, the general secretary of the NUPW.

A worker of the Duncans’ Killott tea garden, Suraj Thapa, said if a person works for 26 days a month his wages, including the food concession, comes to around Rs 1,472.

“If 12 per cent is deducted, the employee’s share comes to Rs 177 and with a matching contribution from the employer is supposed to deposit Rs 354 to the provident fund account each month. However, at 10 per cent, the total amount comes to Rs 294, which is Rs 60 less than the actual amount,” Thapa said. Observers feel the cumulative difference for the 30,000 workers of Duncans would amount to Rs 18 lakh per month.

N.C. Poddar, the regional provident fund commissioner-II, told The Telegraph at his office in Jalpaiguri that the discrepancy had already come to his notice and he had informed the central provident fund commissioner’s office in Delhi about the development a fortnight ago. He also confirmed that Mukherjee had met him with workers from the Bagrakote garden of Duncans last Monday with a complaint on the issue.

“I have forwarded the complaint to our Delhi office,” Poddar said.

The secretary of the Dooars Branch Indian Tea Association, Prabir Bhattacharjee, said it was statutory for all tea companies to deduct 12 per cent from the workers’ wages. “There has been no amendment of the laws lowering the percentage,” Bhattacharjee said.

An executive of Duncans, K.K. Mehra, when contacted on his mobile phone said he had nothing to say on the issue. “You can contact the regional provident fund commissioner in Jalpaiguri,” Mehra said.

Source: The Telegraph