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Tea workers to strike for wage hike

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha on Saturday said tea garden labourers in the Brahamaputra Valley will go on a daylong strike on Tuesday, demanding a hike in minimum wages.

By Avik Chakraborty in Dibrugarh
  • Published 25.02.18
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ACMS president Paban Singh Ghatowar speaks in Dibrugarh on Saturday

Dibrugarh: The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha on Saturday said tea garden labourers in the Brahamaputra Valley will go on a daylong strike on Tuesday, demanding a hike in minimum wages.

Sangha president Paban Singh Ghatowar told reporters at its central office here, "From January 1, tea garden labourers should get a hike in the daily wage. The state government had formed a tripartite committee to decide on the wage hike but it has not taken a decision so far. We demand the workers should get a hike in wages."

The last wage agreement, signed between the Sangha and the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA), Assam Valley branch, expired on December 31 last year. The Assam government formed a Minimum Wages Advisory Board last year to fix the minimum wages of tea workers. Minister for tea tribes welfare, labour and employment Pallab Lochan Das had said on Friday that the board will hold a meeting on March 7.

Ghatowar said the state government had brought out a notification in 2014 that the tea workers will get Rs 140 as daily wage but nothing was done after that. "Most of the garden managements give a meagre Rs 110 or Rs 120 as daily wage to the workers. Their living condition is abysmal because many don't get ration and other benefits from the garden management," he claimed.

He said the workers have been demanding installation of individual electricity meters.

"If the people in towns and villages can get individual meters, why not the tea garden workers? We held a discussion with the state government on the issue and it gave us assurance but nothing has been done so far. The cluster meters have become a burden for garden labourers and the maximum salary of a worker goes in paying the electric bill," he said.

Of the 792 registered tea gardens in the state, 685 are in the Brahmaputra Valley and the rest 107 are in the Barak Valley.

All the registered tea gardens in the state are affiliated to the Congress-backed Sangha.

"The lives of 25,000 workers of the 14 gardens under the bankrupt Assam Company Limited are in doldrums as they are not getting salaries and other benefits. We had sent a letter to the state government on November 13 last year but have not got a response so far."

Ghatowar said when all other tea gardens are giving ration to workers, the ATCL has failed to give ration and other benefits to its workers.

"The workers' provident fund dues has gone up to Rs 600 crore but till date they have not received a penny. We have discussed the issue with the government but nothing fruitful has come out," Ghatowar said.

Several tea workers' groups have been demanding that the minimum daily wage be fixed at Rs 350.

At present, the daily wage stands at Rs 137.