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Tea worker rally for minimum wage

Siliguri, Aug. 20: Around 10,000 tea workers took out a rally here today and submitted a memorandum to the joint labour commissioner demanding state’s intervention in declaring a minimum wage for the industry and finalise revised rates through tripartite talks.

The rally was organised by the United Tea Workers’ Forum, a platform of 22 tea trade unions, including Citu, Intuc, unions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad. Trinamul union is not part of it.

Today, the workers also attended a public meeting in Baghajatin Park here.

“Five rounds of talks have been held and yet, planters are not ready to pay an increment of more than Rs 10 a year for the next three years over the existing daily wage,” Chitta Dey, convenor of the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, said. “Planters have called bipartite meetings in Calcutta on August 30 and 31. If they want to settle bonus and delay wage negotiations, we would be forced to call an industry-wide strike.”

The last wage deal was signed in November 2011 and it expired on March 31 this year.

Bought leaf unit woe

Bought-leaf factory owners of north Bengal have expressed concern over the future of tea processing units because of shortage of leaves and coal.

“We are concerned about the shortage of tealeaves since March. There is financial crisis as bad weather has led to reduction in production. We have coal shortage. It’s price has increased along with power costs and the auction price of BLF tea has gone down,” said Rajeev Baid, secretary of North Bengal Tea Producers’ Welfare Association.