Siliguri/Jaigaon, Oct. 19: The state labour department has and resolved the Puja bonus problem in three Dooars tea gardens, two of which have accepted bonus in instalments and another has decided on a Holi bonus.
Workers in Kumlai and Madhu have agreed to take the bonus in instalments. It means they will get a part of the bonus tomorrow, and the rest before Kali Puja. The decision was reached today after talks among the labour department, the owners and the gardens unions.
In the third garden, called Bandapani, the workers have demanded that the arrears be cleared first for the Pujas. They have said the bonus should be paid before Holi next year.
A labour department official said: “Through tripartite talks yesterday and today, each individual case was dealt with and resolved.”
In Bandapani, sources said the management was supposed to pay the bonus at the rate of 17 per cent of the annual wage. The problem started when the management said it would pay the bonus in instalments.
At Madhu tea estate, where the bonus rate was 15 per cent, and Kumlai (20 per cent of the annual wage), too the management had suggested payment in instalments.
“For Bandapani, both the management and workers have agreed that the bonus would be paid before Holi next year. Ahead of Durga Puja, the management will clear the wage arrears, due since revision of wages in November last year, as well as rations,” said Gopal Pradhan, a senior trade union leader of the RSP-backed Dooars Tea Workers’ Union.
At Kumlai, a garden that has been taken over recently by the Calcutta-based HMP Group, the workers were supposed to get 20 per cent, maximum bonus.
“We called the meeting to resolve the issue at Kumlai today. A consensus was reached,” said Md. Rizwan, the joint labour commissioner. At Kumlai, workers will get half the bonus now, the other half before the Kali Puja.
At the meeting in Alipurduar, the management and workers of Madhu tea estate reached a consensus that the management will pay nine per cent of the bonus ahead of Durga Puja, that is, by tomorrow and the remaining six per cent ahead of Kali Puja.
There are 260 tea estates in the region, spread over Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars with a workforce of over 3 lakh.
“There were problems in other gardens like Rahimabad, Dharanipur, Ingdong, Grassmore, Bamandanga-Tondu and some others. All those were dealt earlier but the stalemate had continued in these three gardens,” the officials said.