Warehouse strike called off, merchants count tea losses

Warehouse labourers here joined work after three days today following a tripartite meeting at the office of the assistant labour commissioner.

The labourers — there are about 350 in Siliguri — were demanding a 15 per cent hike in wages. They are paid 70 paise per bag, with Rs 1,800 per month being their minimum wage.

“The crisis was resolved after talks between warehouse owners and workers. Both sides will meet again in my office on September 19,” said assistant labour commissioner Arunima Biswas.

Pawan Bansal, member and former president of Siliguri Warehouse Owners’ Association, confirmed that the labourers had joined work today.

“It was not an official strike. The labourers were just not reporting for work,” he said. “Normality has been restored after today’s meeting. They have asked for a hike of 15 per cent but we can afford only 8-10 per cent.”

The workers’ agitation, however, had other repercussions. Much to the sellers’ dismay, buyers got an extension in the deadline for making payments for tea sold in the auction.

“According to auction rules, we have granted a two-day extension to prompts of Sale 35 and 36,” said S.K. Saria, the chairman of Siliguri Tea Auction Committee (STAC). “Sale 37 will take place tomorrow.”

Prompt in tea industry jargon stands for the number of days by which the buyers are supposed to pay for the tea bought at the auction. According to STAC rules, a prompt of 13 working days is granted to a buyer.

The auction organisers had earlier extended the prompts of Sale 33 and 34 as huge quantities of sold tea were lying idle because of bad road conditions.

“The situation is like a double edged sword for us,” a planter said. “On the one hand, our payments are getting delayed due to the successive extension of prompts, while on the other tea prices are falling because of excess stock. This year the average price is Rs 3 per kg less than last year.”

Source: The Telegraph