Jorhat, March 20: Labourers plucking more tea leaves will receive more incentives from now on.
An agreement to this effect was signed between the industry and the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), the apex body of garden labourers, in Dibrugarh yesterday.
An industry source said the Sangha had been demanding revision of the plucking rates applicable to daily wage workers engaged in the Brahmaputra Valley for some time now, with the last revision done on April 9, 2010.
The official said with a view to improving productivity, the incentive or extra leaf price would be enhanced for output above the minimum work of 24kg in three slabs from the following season. “After protracted discussions between industry representatives and Sangha members, it was agreed the daily amount of tea plucked would now be 24kg instead of the earlier 23kg for a worker being paid Rs 89 per day,” he said.
Representatives of Indian Tea Association, Tea Association of India, Bharatiya Chah Parishad, Assam Tea Planters’ Association and North Eastern Tea Association were signatories to the revised wages.
The official said beyond the amount during the peak season, a worker who plucks up to 30kg would be given one rupee for each extra kilogram plucked, Rs 1.50 per kg for plucking leaves up to 35kg and Rs 1.75 per kg for plucking above 35kg.
Earlier, the incentive for plucking up to 30kg was 55 paise per extra kg and one rupee per kg for plucking more than 30kg.
Likewise, there would be a penalty of one rupee per kg if a worker plucks 5kg less than the stipulated 24kg and Rs 1.50 per kg for plucking below 19kg leaves.
“If a worker plucked 20kg instead of the mandatory 24kg, then they would get Rs 4 less than the daily wage of Rs 89,” the official explained.
In case of factory workers, there would be an incentive of Rs 5 instead of Rs 3 given earlier, above the daily wage of Rs 89.
The official said the new rates were only for the period of contracts given to the workers because of the surplus of leaves and plucking rounds had to be maintained so the gardens did not lose the good leaves. The existing rates of plucking commission payable to sardars (head of the labourers) as applicable to individual estates, however, would not be affected by this agreement.
The official further said both the industry representatives and the Sangha members had expressed concern over the growing absenteeism in tea gardens and resolved to jointly work together to solve the problem.
Tea Association of India secretary J.N. Baruah said a separate memorandum of understanding had been signed for giving 10 gas cylinders — nine subsidised and one non-subsidised — to monthly rated workers like sardars and chowkidars (watchmen), in lieu of firewood.
“The cylinders would be procured by the workers themselves and on production of vouchers, they would be reimbursed the amount,” Baruah said.
Another pending demand of workers was the enhancement of leave travel allowance (LTA) for workers who are paid monthly, which at present was Rs 750 per year. “No agreement has been signed in this regard and we are negotiating on the amount to be increased,” he said.