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House rent hike for tea workers

- Wages, LTA undecided

Jorhat, Dec. 14: The largest and oldest group of tea workers in Assam and representatives of tea industry signed an agreement to increase the house rent of non-resident permanent workers of the estate.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha and Consultative Committee of Plantation Association (CCPA), Brahmaputra Valley branch signed the pact, hiking the monthly house rent of non-resident permanent workers from Rs 100 to Rs 200 at Dibrugarh last evening.

However, the discussions on two issues — hike in plucking rate and LTA (leave travel allowance) of workers — remained inconclusive with both sides deciding to sit for another round of talks soon.

The tea industry was represented by five employers’ associations — Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association, Tea Association of India, Bharatiya Chah Parishad, Assam Tea Planters’ Association and North Eastern Tea Association.

ACMS general secretary Dileshwar Tanti told The Telegraph over phone from Dibrugarh today that the rent agreement would come into effect from October this year.

Tanti, a former MLA, said a large number of labourers working (nearly 50,000) in the tea estates live in colonies of their own and not in the garden labour quarters.

The workers who live in such colonies will benefit from the hike.

Tanti said the tea body had demanded more hike in the house rent, but the industry side cited “certain difficulties” with regards to the financial constraints and both sides settled for an increase of Rs 100.

“We want to settle all pending issues though discussions and mutual understanding. Earlier, in March this year, the industry had agreed to our demand of increasing the daily wages and a three-year pact was signed under which wages got an immediate hike and also will be hiked in two phases in the next two years,” the general secretary said.

Tanti said though there were discussions on the two other matters, both sides failed to arrive at a conclusion and agreed that further talks were needed to come to an understanding.

The tea body has demanded a substantial increase in the yearly LTA given to the workers. At present, a worker gets Rs 500 LTA per year.

The ACMS leader said the organisation was demanding an increase in the incentive rate for plucking. At present, a worker gets an incentive of 55 paise per kg if he or she plucks over 23kg in a day.

Assam Tea Planters’ Association secretary Debeshwar Bora said the industry was hopeful that by ways of discussions all pending matters would be settled with the tea body.

He said the industry always was trying to meet aspirations of the workers.