Prod to planters to pay bonus by Oct 18

The Bengal labour department today instructed tea planters in the hills to clear workers' bonus by October 18 and persuade those who had moved to the plains during the strike to return and join work.

By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 15.10.17
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Pay delay

Siliguri, Oct.14: The Bengal labour department today instructed tea planters in the hills to clear workers' bonus by October 18 and persuade those who had moved to the plains during the strike to return and join work.

The bonus for the hill tea estates was fixed at 19.75 per cent this year during a tripartite meeting on September 22, when it was agreed that the management would pay the money in two instalments.

"It had been decided that the first instalment would be paid ahead of Durga Puja and the date of the next instalment would be decided at another tripartite meeting. But we have found that around half of the tea estates are yet to clear even the first instalment," said a senior official of the labour department.

A meeting was held this afternoon at Uttarkanya where the planters were instructed to clear the bonus at the earliest. Since mid-June, all 87 tea estates in the hills, which have 55,000 workers in total, had been closed because of the statehood strike that continued till September 26.

"Most of the tea estates told us that they could not disburse the amount as many labourers had not turned up for work. We told the management to clear the first instalment by October 18 and fix a date after Diwali for the remaining money to be paid," said Javed Akhtar, the state labour commissioner.

At the meeting, the union leaders were also asked to communicate with the workers, particularly those who had moved out of the hills during the agitation, and persuade them to return so that full-fledged work can start at the gardens at the earliest.

The tea sector has been one of the hardest hit by the three months of the strike, Planters have expressed concern that they might lose over 80 per cent of the annual production.

"Despite suffering losses, the planters had agreed to pay bonus at 19.75 per cent. Now that the management is saying that a section of labourers is not joining work, the unions will have to take a proactive role to ensure that work starts in all the tea gardens in full swing," Akhtar said.