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Forum renews garden strike threat over wages

Fix minimum pay at August 6 meeting, unions tell state government

By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 4.08.18
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Leaders of the Joint Forum at a meeting in Siliguri on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo

Siliguri: Joint Forum, the apex body of tea trade unions in north Bengal other than Trinamul-backed unions, has threatened to resume its movement if the state does not announce the minimum wage rate at a meeting that has been convened at Uttarkanya on August 6.

At a meeting held here on Friday, leaders of the constituent trade unions of Joint Forum, made the decision and said they would go ahead if the state fails to deliver any result by August 6.

"We postponed the three-day strike that was called in tea gardens and the general strike in the fringes of tea plantation areas on last month after the state labour department officials said that a meeting would be held on July 30 where the rate would be announced. Later, the meeting was deferred to August 6 and despite the delay, we decided to cooperate with the state," said Ziaur Alam, convener of the Forum.

"However, if the state fails to make any decision at the next meeting on the minimum wage issue, we will resume our movement," he added.

Sources said the Forum leaders though remain positive about the outcome of the meeting at the branch secretariat, but at the same time took a decision that if their demand is not fulfilled, they might re-call the strike.

Other activities like demonstration in tea gardens and state government offices, rallies and public meetings would also be taken, the leaders said.

"If the state can fix Rs 256 as minimum wage for workers of bought leaf factories, why it is delaying in fixing the minimum wage of over four-and-half lakh tea workers," said Alok Chakraborty, a senior leader of the Intuc-backed National Union of Plantation Workers.

This decision by the Forum has put back the pressure on the state. This is more so because BJP, which is a constituent of the Forum, has already started highlighting the alleged dilly-dallying by the state in fixing the minimum wage rate.

"The party is also highlighting the fact that the state government of Assam, where BJP is in power, has already proposed a minimum wage rate of Rs 351.33. No such announcement has been made in Bengal," said an observer.

According to him, as Parliament elections are knocking the doors, Trinamul cannot afford to let BJP highlight this issue that can affect its support base in the brew belt of north Bengal.