Peace on tea union lips

A conglomerate of garden workers’ unions has decided to launch a campaign against violence and spread the message of peace, keeping in mind the fact that most of the people involved in the recent clashes are estate labourers.

The Co-ordination Committee of the Tea Plantation Workers, an apex body of 18 garden unions, including the Citu and Intuc, convened a meeting in Jalpaiguri this afternoon to stem the rift among different communities.

The leaders of all constituents of the committee have unanimously decided to launch the campaign, disseminating the message of peace among tea workers of different communities, and to discourage them from extending support to any organisation indulging in violence in the name of supporting and opposing the Gorkhaland demand.

The unions will rather ask the labourers to concentrate on the political struggle to improve their socio-economic condition.

“I had not ever witnessed such rift and tension among the working class before in my 52-year-old trade union life. Instead of fighting together for economic and social development, they are against each other now, indulging in attacks and arson. They should be stopped immediately,” said Chitta Dey, the convener of the committee.

“Considering that the discord among the workers can have disastrous ramifications, we have decided to start the campaign from tomorrow, countering the issues raised by the divisive forces,” he said.

At the meeting, the leaders expressed concern over the incidents of violence being reported from different tea estates in the Dooars.

“Violence and creation of rift among the workforce will have a negative impact on the tea industry as a whole,” said Dey. “After years of recession, the industry has shown signs of improvement in the last season. We expect things to improve further in the season that will commence from the first week of March. But if the situation continues to be volatile and normal activities in the estates are affected, the sector will stagger again, and it will be workers who will suffer ultimately,” he added.

“It is thus important that peace is maintained and the labourers give attention to their work instead of getting swayed away by the divisive forces which are hardly concerned about poor people,” said a leader.

Asked about the role of the trade union floated by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the gardens, Dey said it did not have any presence in the Terai and the Dooars and was not a constituent of the committee.

Apart from the micro-level campaign to be carried out by the trade union leaders in tea estates, a workers’ convention will also be organised by the committee at Birpara on February 23.