Planters balk at hike

'Can't pay higher tea wages'

  • Published 8.09.18

Siliguri: A notification issued by the state labour department mentioning back-to-back hikes in the daily wages of tea workers has left planters worried.

They are apprehensive that a number of gardens in north Bengal, particularly in the Terai and the Dooars, would find it tough to pay at the increased rate.

This is because of the financial stringency that they had been facing for past few years as there hasn't been a sharp rise in tea prices during these years.

"We are worried over the future of a number of gardens, given the increased expenditure they need to bear for the rise in wages. This is the second time that the state has announced a hike over the wage rate. As there it is unlikely that the state would revoke the notification, there might violations in payment of revised wages in some tea estates which can lead to other consequences," said a senior representative of a tea planters' association.

On August 29, the state labour commissioner has issued a notification, mentioning that the daily wage rate, which is Rs 159 now, would increase to Rs 169 from September 1 (with a hike of ten rupees) and to Rs 176 from October 1 (with another hike of seven rupees).

Earlier this year, the state had increased the wage rate, which was Rs 132.50 then, to Rs 150. It was made effective from January and later, another nine rupees was added to it as a cash component paid for ration.

After the notification, tea planters' associations had communicated with the department, requesting to reconsider the hike.

"We had urged the state to reconsider the hike or at least defer it for some time. This is because the industry had suffered a loss due to the three-day strike and also another major payment, the bonus, has to be made ahead of Puja," said Prabir Bhattacharjee, secretary general, Tea Association of India.