BJP-led Assam govt to go for an interim daily wage hike of Rs 38 for tea garden workers
The BJP-led Assam government on Friday evening decided to go for an interim daily wage hike of Rs 38 for tea garden workers after cancelling the earlier hike of Rs 50 notified on February 23.
The decision was taken so that garden workers “do not suffer” because of the court case challenging the earlier hike.
The hike will push the daily wage of a worker to Rs 205 from Rs 167 in Brahmaputra Valley and to Rs 183 from the existing Rs 145 in Barak Valley, a state government statement said.
“The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and involving representatives of the tea garden management and employees. The Rs 38 interim hike will also be effective from February 22. A 15-member committee has also been formed which will fix the final wage,” Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha general secretary Rupesh Gowala said after the meeting. Gowala said at the two-hour long meeting, the chief minister was of the view that garden workers should not suffer because of the ongoing court case challenging the earlier hike.
“True to the government’s commitment and for the welfare of the tea garden workers the government would raise the remaining Rs 12 after initiating consultation with stake holders and exuded confidence that an acceptable solution will be found out very soon,” the statement said.
The state government had earlier cancelled its February 23 notification ordering an interim daily wage hike of Rs 50.
The February hike, which saw the daily wage rise from Rs 167 to Rs 217 a day, was effected with just over a month to go for the three-phase Assembly polls — March 27, April 2 and April 6. Tea garden votes play a decisive role in over 40 of the 126 Assembly seats.
The February 23 notification was cancelled on May 26 but came to light on Friday, hours before the state government-convened meeting with 10 organisations representing both the employers and employees to discuss issues related to the daily wage. The interim hike was to come into effect from February 22.
The labour welfare department said it had to cancel the interim hike notification because the same had been challenged by tea associations on the “ground of non-compliance of the statutory proviso under Clause (a) of Sub Section 1 of Section 5, Assam Amendment of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (Assam Act, 1964, S.2)”.
This clause provides for appointment of committees and sub-committees to advise the government in respect of fixation of wages on interim measure after holding such preliminary enquires as the committee or the sub-committee, as the case may be, considers necessary and appropriate.
Though the government held several rounds of talks with representatives of the industry and workers, it had “inadvertently” skipped forming the committee. The government after considering such advice fix the wages pending the fixation of the minimum rate of wages as required under sub-section (2).
The department also announced the constitution of a 15-member committee under relevant section of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 “for fixing and revising minimum wages for plantation workers...”
The committee will have five representatives each from the government, employers and employee associations.
The BJP-led government headed by Sarbananda Sonowal had notified an interim hike of Rs 50, its second since coming to power in 2016. The first hike was Rs 30 a day.
However, the Gauhati High Court stayed the hike on March 16 till further orders after it was challenged by the Indian Tea Association and 17 gardens. The court order
had said that the petitioners (gardens) “should be given to the petitioners to pay to the workmen any interim enhancement of their wages as they deem proper, till the issue is finally decided by this court”.
The Assembly poll results declared on May 2 saw the BJP-led alliance win a second successive term with Himanta Biswa Sarma replacing Sonowal as the chief minister early this month.
The interim hike and other welfare measures initiated by the BJP-led government helped the ruling alliance sweep the tea belt area in Upper and North Bank districts.