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Rs 23 hike in tea wage

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By VIVEK CHHETRI
  • Published 1.04.11
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Darjeeling, March 31: The Darjeeling Tea Association today inked a deal with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and other parties to increase the daily wage of hill garden workers by Rs 23, a day before the new agreement on the payment comes into force.

The Morcha had been demanding that the wage be increased from Rs 67 to Rs 120-150 a day, but the DTA and hill unions agreed to settle for Rs 90 at a meeting last night.

The new pact will be in force for three years from tomorrow.

The hike is the highest in the history of the Darjeeling tea industry. Three years ago, the unions and garden owners had agreed on a cumulative hike of Rs 13. 10 spread over three years. As per the 2007 agreement, the wage was increased by Rs 4.10 from Rs 53.90 in the first year, followed by a hike of Rs 4.50 in the preceding two years.

However, the labourers will get a daily wage of Rs 90 throughout the three-year period under the new deal.

P.T. Sherpa, the president of the Morcha affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, said: “This is one of the highest wage hikes. We have also managed to hold the negotiations in Darjeeling for the first time. Earlier, the wage negotiations would always be held in Calcutta.”

The meeting was attended by the unions of the CPRM and the Congress also.

Of the 85 tea gardens in the hills, 62 are members of the DTA. Most of the remaining estates are either with the Indian Tea Association (ITA) or independent of any body of owners. The ITA and the individual gardens are yet to reach on an agreement on the wage revision with the unions.

Observers, however, said it was only a matter of time before the ITA, too, agreed to the same wage hike as there could not be a situation where the workers’ remuneration varied from one plantation to another in the hills.

Sources said representatives of the ITA were trying to meet the leaders of the Morcha union to hold talks on the wage hike. However, until that meeting takes place, the embargo on the despatch of the first flush of Darjeeling tea will continue in the non-DTA gardens. “We will lift the embargo once we get a word from them,” said Sherpa.

The embargo on the despatch of tea from the 62 gardens had been lifted on March 29.

Sandeep Mukherjee, the secretary of the DTA, said: “We honoured their long standing demand that wage negotiations should be held in Darjeeling. But we sat for the talks only after the embargo on the despatch of tea had been lifted.”

The DTA made the statement to suggest that the association had not held the negotiations with the unions at gunpoint.

Gardens reopen

Three tea gardens in the Dooars, two of which had been closed for six years, reopened on Thursday following their takeover by a Siliguri-based businessman.

Redbank, Surendranagar and Dharanipur gardens, located at Banarhat of Jalpaiguri district, were handed over to Roshanlal Agarwala and work will start from tomorrow.