Jorhat, July 30: The Assam government today proposed to increase the wages of tea labourers by Rs 28.5 from the existing Rs 115 to Rs 143.50.
A draft proposal issued by the labour and employment department stated that the hike would be exclusive of benefits given in kind to a plantation worker, which is estimated to Rs 177.19 per day.
The proposal has directed the tea industry to furnish objection/suggestion to the labour department within two months. "All the plantation workers shall be entitled to the benefits given in kind as estimated, including food stuff at a discounted rate," the notification stated.
The government notification comes at a time when the tea industry is of the view that it will be in "acute discomfort" if there is an abnormal rise in tea workers' wages next time, as prices have not kept pace with rising costs.
The cost of production is now Rs 170.23, which will rise to Rs 188.49 by 2017 when the present wage agreement expires.
"The industry will be staring at very high levels of discomfort if the wages are increased substantially," an industry official said.
A senior official of Indian Tea Association said the industry would move accordingly and submit its views as the notification provides a two-month window to make submissions.
At present, the total cost of employment and the effective package paid out to a worker, which comprises both cash and in-kind benefits, is Rs 249.08 per day.
The tea industry has recently revised the wages payable from January 1 through a settlement.
The official said the high cost of production of the tea industry has been hurting its competitiveness. In the cost structure, 80 per cent of the total costs are fixed in nature with little scope for reduction.
Input costs have significantly gone up in electricity, coal, plant protection chemicals and now irrigation.
The industry has been receiving power at a level of 30 to 55 per cent of requirement compelling dependence on self-generation at a high cost.