Higher puja bonus for the hill tea estate workers

Darjeeling: Workers of tea estates in the hills will be paid Puja bonus at higher rates than last year, it was decided at a bipartite meeting at the Planters’ Club here last night.

The bonus issue was settled quickly in the plains this year and the pattern was repeated in the hills. The Darjeeling Tea Association and the GNLF-affiliated Himalayan Plantation Workers’ Union settled for bonus at the rates of 12.60, 11.60, 10.60 and 9.25 per cent of total annual income of workers of Grades A, B, C and D gardens respectively.

Last year, the bonus rates in the hills were 12 per cent (Grade A), 11.50 per cent (Grade B), 10 per cent (Grade C) and 9 per cent (Grade D).

The grade of a garden is decided on the basis of the number of workers it employs, size of the plantation area, production and turnover.

There are 15 tea estates in Grade A, 16 each in Grades B and C and 13 in Grade D in the Darjeeling hills. Together, they employ more than 55,000 permanent workers and 50,000 casual labourers.

Planters have expressed satisfaction at the early settlement. “Both parties mutually agreed on the bonus rates,” said Sandip Mukherjee, the secretary of the planters’ association.

“Given the increase in salaries and wages, Rs 7,000 per month (Rs 84,000 per annum) will be considered the upper limit for bonus calculation,” Mukherjee added. It means those who earn more will not have their bonus calculated on their entire income.

Unlike Mukherjee, union leaders said they were “not entirely satisfied” with the settlement. “The good thing is that the rates fixed this time are higher (than last year) and the issue was settled early,” said N.K. Kumai, the president of the workers’ union.

“We want the planters to ensure that the bonus is paid on time,” Kumai added.

Industry sources said the bonus would be paid by October 6. Gardens in the Dooars and the Terai have agreed to pay bonus to their workers by September 30.

Source: The Telegraph