Tea workers threaten strike if demand for interim wage hike not met

The Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers (CCTPW) today threatened to launch an indefinite strike in north Bengal if its demand for an interim wage hike was not met by May.

Leaders of the CCTPW, an apex body of trade unions in north Bengal tea gardens and affiliated to Citu and Intuc, held a meeting in Jalpaiguri this afternoon to discuss the problems faced by the labourers because of inflation.

“Unprecedented rise in the prices of essential commodities has prompted us to raise the demand for an interim hike in wages with immediate effect,” said Chitta Dey, the convener of the CCTPW. “We also want an increase in the dearness allowances of employees like the staff and sub-staff serving in the plantations.”

Dey said the committee would send memorandums seeking wage hike to the central and state governments and the planters’ associations on April 15. “If no positive development with regard to our demand is noticed by May, we will resort to a movement with a one day strike across the brew belt. That will be followed by dharnas, rallies, meetings and eventually an indefinite strike,” he said.

The existing wage agreement inked by the unions and the garden managements will expire in 2011.

As of now, he said, there are around 2.50 lakh workers serving in the tea industry, along with more than 30,000 staff and sub-staff.

Observers say the formation of a tea trade union by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad and its demand to increase the daily tea wage from Rs 62 to Rs 250 have prompted the CCTPW to jump into action.

The CCTPW also demanded the recruitment of more workers by the gardens and the formation of a new wage board. “The planters had in 1999 agreed to recruit 10,000 new workers. However, only 5,000 people have been employed. We also demand another wage board,” Dey said.

He added that the last wage board had been formed by the Centre in 1966.

Source: The Telegraph