Workers' stake in Tata firm sparks row

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By SOHINI MOOKHERJEA in Calcutta
  • Published 1.06.08
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Calcutta, June 1: The Congress-led Intuc trade union and the Left-controlled Citu have crossed swords over workers at the Tata Tea gardens holding stakes in Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Ltd.

While Intuc is encouraging workers to pick up stakes, Citu is opposing the move. Both the unions, however, are aware that the company has received permission from the courts for the formation of the new company.

“We have been directed by our Delhi headquarters to support policies helping industrialisation. We encourage workers to pick up stakes as we feel it will enable them to have a say in the ownership of a company,” said Mani Darnal, secretary of Intuc’s National Union of Plantation Workers.

Citu-led Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union has over 70,000 members in North Bengal.

It has more members in the Tata gardens than the Intuc-led union.

“We are against workers taking up shareholding as it will change their status from workers to owners under the Plantation Worker Act. The union fears that if that happens, benefits granted by owners such as bonus, gratuity and ration will cease to be applicable,” said Chhanu De, secretary of Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union.

In a written statement, Tata Tea has promised to protect the rights of the workers and meet all commitments.

De, however said the gardens had seen many instances of promises getting reneged.

“We are also opposed to the arrangement that Tata Tea will not have any involvement in the daily operations but will only buy processed leaves for its packet tea. We want uniform involvement,” he added.

However, both the unions support alternative income-generating activities in the gardens. Tata Tea has undertaken farm-based diversification in Assam.

Amalgamated Plantations is to manage the Tata Tea gardens in Assam and north Bengal. Under the proposed shareholding pattern, the Tatas, some firms as well as the workers are to hold stakes in the firm.