Protest after flop talks

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  • Published 15.09.03

Siliguri, Sept 15: With the second round of talks on puja bonus failing to reach a settlement, tea workers have decided to launch protest campaigns around tea gardens all over north Bengal.

The meeting, which was held in Calcutta through out this weekend, ended in a deadlock with the management and labour unions refusing to budge from their stance.

While the management refused to offer more than 8.75 per cent as bonus, labourers would accept nothing less than 11 per cent, which is one per cent below last year’s figure.

“Last year, we were given a bonus of 12 per cent for grade-A gardens. This year we have demanded a bonus of 11 per cent. But the management is not willing to pay even nine per cent. It was because of their rigid stance that the meeting failed to reach a solution. We are left with no other option than to agitate,” said Alok Chakraborty, the joint general secretary of National Union of Plantation Workers.

Last year, the workers were paid 12 per cent for grade-A gardens, 11 per cent for grade-B gardens, 9.75 per cent for grade-C gardens and 8.5 per cent for grade-D gardens.

From tomorrow, workers in all gardens in the Dooars will organise protest meetings in front of the office everyday before joining work.

“We will begin protest meetings from September 17 in all Terai gardens. This is because we want to sensitise the workers on the issue by tomorrow,” Chakraborty said

He added that the agitation will continue as long as the management did not comply with the workers’ demand. However, if any garden is willing to pay 12 per cent bonus like last year, the workers will withdraw the agitation from those gardens.

Today, the members of National Union of Plantation Workers met at the district Intuc office to finalise their agitation programme.

“The Assam government has announced 20 per cent bonus to its workers in grade-A gardens. If Assam can give 20 per cent, why can’t the West Bengal government not give us the same rate?” asked Kanu Sanyal, working president of All West Bengal Tea Garden Labourers’ Union.

“We have decided to gherao each and every garden to press for our bonus. We have demanded that the management pay up the bonus before the pujas. If it fails to do so, we will be forced to launch massive agitations,” Sanyal said.