Trade unions affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have threatened to impose an indefinite embargo on the dispatch of tea from gardens in the Dooars and the Terai if the wages of the tea workers of the region are not revised in the meeting which is scheduled to be held on October 13.

A similar tea embargo was levied on Darjeeling tea gardens by the GJMM in the Darjeeling hills in regard to hike in tea laborer wages. This finally got sorted out by an increase of Rs. 23.00 which touched Rs. 90 when the demand was for Rs. 120-154.

Significantly, the trade unions of the tea workers have decided to attend the tripartite meeting.

Birsha Tirkey, president of ABAVP, said, “In last three months, we have attended more than five tripartite meetings, but the issue is yet to be resolved. The October 13 meeting will be the last meeting we will be attending. If the management does not agree to our demands, we will stall the dispatch and there will be indefinite strike in the tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars region.”

There are 204 tea gardens in the Terai and Dooars region. Workers of these tea gardens spearheaded the agitation to demand higher daily wage. The garden workers in the plains are currently paid Rs 67 a day according to an agreement reached between planters and trade unions three years ago. The duration of the deal ended on March 31 and all negotiations held so far to fix a new wage have failed to reach a consensus. On the other hand, the laborers in the Darjeeling Tea gardens get Rs 90 a day.

“We will hold meetings in front of the gates of each tea garden in the Terai and the Dooars after the Pujas demanding immediate fixing of wages,” said the ABAVP leader. “We will not agree for less than Rs 91 per day deal and we want our payment on a retrospective basis since April,” said Tirkey.

The planters in the plains had offered a hike of Rs 8 every year so that the wage would reach Rs 91 in 2013 from the current Rs 67. But the unions rejected the offer outright and wanted the garden owners to come forward with fresh proposals. The offers were made at tripartite meetings convened by the state labour department. The garden owners said halt in the dispatch of tea and slow work would cripple the industry.

The meeting on October 13 will be attended by three cabinet ministers including state Commerce & Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee.

Express News Service