MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Calcutta HC clears decks for revised tea wages, directs state to finalise minimum wage in six months

On April 27 this year, the state labour commissioner issued an advisory that tea estates should pay the workers at a revised rate of Rs 250 per day with effect from June 1

Avijit Sinha, Anirban Choudhury Siliguri, Alipurduar Published 04.08.23, 07:00 AM
Workers at a tea garden in the Terai plains.

Workers at a tea garden in the Terai plains. File picture 

Calcutta High Court dismissed a petition filed by tea companies to set aside an advisory issued by the state labour department for the revision of daily wages of tea workers of Bengal.

The single bench of Justice Raja Basu Chowdhury on August 1 also issued a directive to the state government on Tuesday to finalise a minimum wage rate for tea workers within six months.

ADVERTISEMENT

In all, Bengal has around three lakh tea workers.

On April 27 this year, the state labour commissioner issued an advisory that tea estates should pay the workers at a revised rate of Rs 250 per day with effect from June 1.

As it meant a hike of Rs 18 in daily wages from the current Rs 232 per day that a tea worker gets now, some tea companies filed a petition with Calcutta High Court. Regular revisions of tea wages done by the state government pose a threat to the financial sustainability of tea estates, considering the steep rise in the cost of production, tea planters said.

In 2011, when Trinamul came to power in the state, the daily wage for tea workers was Rs 67.

Back then, the wage was settled through talks between tea trade unions and planters’ associations.

In 2015, the state constituted the minimum wage advisory committee comprising representatives of tea planters’ associations, trade unions and state government officials.

However, the committee couldn’t recommend a minimum wage rate to the state so far. Hence, the state labour department regularly announces advisories to revise the wage of tea workers. Based on such revisions, the daily wage stands at Rs 232 now.

Based on the court’s order, Amarnath Mallick, the labour commissioner of the state, issued an order on August 3, mentioning tea gardens would have to pay workers the revised rate of Rs 250 a day.

“Also, as it was mentioned in the advisory that the new rate will be effective from June 1, the labour commissioner mentioned that arrears have to be cleared in the next 10 days,” said a source.

The court’s order evoked a mixed reaction across the brew belt. While workers and trade unions are happy, tea planters said they need to arrange additional funds.

“The order of Calcutta High Court issued on August 1 and the advisory issued by the state labour department on August 3 have now become binding. However, considering the impending bonus payment, it would be helpful if the tea gardens are allowed to pay the arrears (of around two months) in instalments,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary general of the Tea Association of India.

In the tea industry, the bonus is disbursed to workers ahead of Durga Puja.

Senior trade union leaders such as Ziaul Alam, the convener of the Joint Forum, which is the apex body of around 26 tea trade unions, said it was a good development that decks were cleared for workers to receive higher wages.

“However, the state government should simultaneously take appropriate initiatives to ensure that the minimum wage rate, which is a longstanding demand of tea workers, is also finalised in the next six months as directed by Calcutta High Court,” Alam said.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT