CUP OF CHEER
Jorhat, Sept. 8: McLeod Russel, the world’s largest tea producing company, has declared 20 per cent bonus for its workers.
An agreement between Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the state’s oldest and largest tea labourers’ union, and the company, which has 49 tea gardens in Assam, was reached after discussions at the ACMS central office in Dibrugarh yesterday.
The ACMS had last month urged the tea industry to declare the rate of bonus at least three weeks ahead of Durga Puja while the government has directed tea companies to declare the quantum bonus by September 22 and complete the payment by September 30.
ACMS general secretary Dileswar Tanti told The Telegraph today that according to the agreement, the company would pay 15 per cent bonus before Durga Puja and the rest in January. “Since school admissions take place in January, the five per cent bonus will help garden workers,” he added.
The company had also paid 20 per cent bonus last year and in 2011 in two instalments.
Tanti, a former legislator, said McLeod Russel was the first company to sign an agreement with ACMS this year. “Although we have been told by almost all the major tea companies that they would pay 20 per cent bonus, we have not received any official communication from them yet. We are expecting to receive such communication within the next few days,” he said.
Tanti said from tomorrow onwards, discussion with other companies would be held at the union’s central office in Dibrugarh. He said talks with representatives from Andrew Yule and Assam Company were scheduled for tomorrow.
He said officials of MK Shah Group had told him that the company would send a letter to ACMS, declaring a 20 per cent bonus, in a day or two.
The Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL), which has 15 gardens across the state, will be paying a 20 per cent bonus after a long gap. The Assam government had revived the state-owned PSU in 2004 after it had gone bankrupt.
Sources in ATCL said chief minister Tarun Gogoi had announced that the government would bear the entire amount needed to disburse the bonus at 20 per cent. About Rs 6.32 crore will be required to pay bonus to 15,000 workers in ATCL estates.
Last year, ATCL had paid 18 per cent in two instalments (12 per cent before the Pujas and the rest six per cent in March) with the government bearing the 12 per cent.
Sources said about Rs 500 crore is paid by the tea industry to the workers every year as bonus.
In 2003, the bonus issue had reached a boiling point, leading to police firing on agitating labourers in Tinsukia district.
However, with the fortunes of the tea industry looking up in the past few years, bonus payments have been made smoothly.
Payment of bonus to industrial employees is mandatory under Payment of Bonus Act, 1965. It says employees earning up to Rs 10,000 per month have to be paid bonus at a minimum rate of 8.33 per cent and a maximum of 20 per cent on the basis of the employers’ earnings in the previous fiscal.