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Tea giant fixes bonus

Dibrugarh, Sept. 18: With the Assam government's September 30 deadline to resolve the bonus row nearing, tea giant Eveready yesterday announced the rate of payment after reaching a settlement with the labourers' union.

Eveready, which has 22 gardens in the state, announced that it would pay bonus to the labourers at the rate of 15 per cent of the annual wage. The decision was taken at a meeting between the company and the Asom Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) here yesterday.

This raises the hope that a solution to the vexed issue may be reached ahead of Durga Puja. The Assam government had fixed September 30 as the deadline for garden authorities and the ACMS to resolve the issue.

Other tea companies have also started submitting their balance sheets to the ACMS to resolve the bonus row at the earliest. Sources in the ACMS said about 100 companies had submitted their balance sheets, which would be taken into account before finalising the rate of bonus.

'We were confident about the bonus issue being resolved a month before the Pujas. The delay in finding a solution may be attributed to the grading methodology, which was proposed by the Consultative Committee of Plantation Association (CCPA),' ACMS general secretary Madhusudhan Khandait said.

He was hopeful about striking a deal with all the three big companies ' Eveready, Assam Frontier Tea Company and Singlo & Empire Tea Company ' at the earliest.

All the three companies were lobbying hard to reduce the rate of payment this year. However, the ACMS has been opposing it tooth and nail. 'If they cannot raise it, we will not allow them to lower it either,' Khandait said.

Eveready had given bonus at the rate of 15 per cent last year as well. The other two major companies, which have 16 gardens between them, had paid 14.5 per cent. The gardens have to pay the mandatory 8.33 per cent of the annual wage as minimum bonus every year.

The other companies, which have submitted their balance sheets, are Mackeypore, Borshilla, Stewart Holl, Jorehaut Tea Company, Tata, Goodricke and Rossell. Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) and Magor have not submitted their balance sheets till now.

In Delhi, ACMS vice-president M. Naseeruddin said steps should be taken to ensure effective implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, 1936, so that tea labourers get higher wages. He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference of stakeholders in the tea industry, organised by the Union labour and commerce ministry, yesterday.

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