Sept. 22: Over three lakh workers in around 220 tea gardens in the Dooars and Terai will receive the annual bonus at 20 per cent of their yearly earnings irrespective of the grade of the estates.
The plains have a total of 250-odd gardens, but the rate agreed on by the planters and trade unions in Calcutta today wouldn’t be applicable to 36 estates which are ailing financially. The 36 plantations will pay the bonus at rates ranging from 10 per cent to 19 per cent.
The highest bonus rate permissible under the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, is 20 per cent.
“Considering the rise in tea prices and the steady market of north Bengal tea, we have demanded that bonus be paid at 20 per cent. However, planters wanted us to agree to a lesser rate. After discussions yesterday and today, it was decided that bonus would be paid at the rate of 20 per cent in the gardens of all four grades in the Terai and Dooars,” Chitta Dey, the convenor of the Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, said over the phone from Calcutta today.
The committee is the apex body of tea garden trade unions in the plains.
Last year also, the bonus was paid at the rate of 20 per cent in the gardens under all the four categories. The estates are divided into four grades — A, B, C and D — on the basis of a number of parameters like total area under cultivation, annual production, number of workers and likewise.
Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars branch of Indian Tea Association, said the bonus would be paid to workers before October 5.
“As 36 tea estates are facing a financial crisis, their owners have expressed inability to pay the bonus at 20 per cent. These gardens’ bonus will be decided on an individual basis. We (planters) are happy that a decision on the bonus could be reached quickly,” he said.