The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea Day focus on workers' rights

Jalpaiguri, Dec. 15: Equal wages for men and women, no reduction in negotiated wages and no curtailment of fringe benefits.

These are some of the demands that featured in a joint declaration on tea workers' rights made today by Indian trade unions along with their counterparts in different tea-producing nations like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Small tea growers were also represented.

The declaration was made at a two-day seminar convened in Delhi to mark the International Tea Day, observed for the first time today.

'We feel that women workers should be paid the same wage as men,' said Samir Roy, the state secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha. Roy was speaking over phone from Delhi.

The five-page declaration also raises, among others, issues like distribution of free clothing and appropriate equipment to workers that meet health and safety standards, regular health monitoring of labourers and improvement of amenities in the gardens.

The representatives also expressed concern over the use of toxic and carcinogenic pesticides in tea estates and said the norms laid down by World Health Organisation should be followed in this matter.

Trade union leaders and foreign representatives advocated that both the planters and labourers in the small tea growers' sector should be brought under the purview of social security legislation.

'It was also mentioned in the joint declaration that the process of fixing the price of green leaf ought to be transparent. Subsidy and support should be extended by the government and small growers should have a separate monitoring authority,' said Bijoygopal Chakrabarty, the convener of United Forum of Small Tea Growers' Associations, an apex body of small tea growers in north Bengal.

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