Lockout cloud looms over estate future

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By ANURADHA SHARMA LAKHOTIA in Siliguri
  • Published 11.07.03
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Siliguri, July 11: The tea industry continues to move from one bad spell to another as another estate faces the spectre of a lock-out.

As a “tripartite” reconciliation meeting between tea workers and the management at additional district magistrate S.L. Bhagat’s office failed to resolve disputes, Kamla tea estate of Ghoshpukur in Phansidewa now faces the prospect of a lockout.

“Since 2001, the workers have been denied their basic rights like firewood, repair and building of the houses, medicines, drinking water, provident fund and gratuity facilities. Promises were made after we started the agitation, but none were kept,” said Kanu Sanyal, working president of All West Bengal Tea Garden Labourers Union.

At today’s meeting, the management agreed to pay Rs 50,000 to the workers to repair their houses within 15 days and provide them with 50 per cent firewood by September, which was initially agreed upon by both parties. Subsequently, talks broke down when the management refused to pay the workers their immediate dues.

What adds to the fears of the workers is a “pre-lockout” notice served on the workers.

U.B. Das, secretary of Terai Branch Indian Tea Association, however, said: “If the workers do not maintain law and order such a decision may be taken as a last resort.”

Das claimed helplessness in payment of wages, saying the company had no money to pay.