Tea garden owners of Dooars and Terai regions of north Bengal are seeking to readjust the bonus rate down for the fiscal year 2022-23 from 20 per cent citing weakening financial conditions.
About 3.5 lakh workers have received bonuses at 20 per cent in the previous two fiscals, the highest rate specified under the statute. However, the 186 gardens that are now engaged in the negotiation with the trade unions, have initially expressed their inability to pay at 20 per cent.
“The stress among the tea gardens this year due to weak auction prices is known to all. Last two years was not great but gardens still paid at 20 per cent,” said an official who is aware of the negotiation.
The second round of the meeting between the constituent associations of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) and operating trade unions of tea gardens to decide on the rate of bonus for tea garden workers of Dooars and Terai that took place in Calcutta on Thursday.
The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere where both the sides presented their views. While the unions have demanded payment of bonus at 20 per cent, the CCPA has made a plea to the unions to reconsider their position in recognition of the present financially stressed condition of the tea industry, a statement from CCPA said.
The meeting was adjourned and the next round is scheduled to take place in the first week of October.
According to the statute, workers are entitled to get a minimum of 8.3 per cent bonus of their cumulative wage in a year, no matter how the gardens have fared individually. At most, the rate can go up to 20 per cent, which the unions have demanded.
In the last 10 years, bonus rates have hovered between 10 to 20 per cent.