A tea garden with around 1,750 workers in the Dooars was abandoned by the management on Friday without citing any reason.
When labourers reached the office of Rheabari tea estate in Banarhat block of Jalpaiguri district on Friday morning to join duties, they couldn’t find any managerial employees who usually remained present during the start of the work.
“Soon, we came to know that the manager and all other staff had left the garden. They have not issued any notice so far. We have no idea why they abandoned the garden. The state labour department should intervene to reopen the estate,” said Kumar Biswakarma, the secretary of the Trinamul Cha Bagan Sramik Union’s unit at Rheabari.
The estate has around 1,500 permanent labourers and 250-odd casual workers.
“All of them became jobless today. There was no problem with wages and provident fund. If the management had any issues, they should have spoken to us, instead of taking a decision that left the workers amid uncertainty,” the trade union leader said.
Sources said the management had been insisting for a week that workers serve eight hours a day.
“The workers didn’t accept it and said in every tea garden, work is carried out in two shifts, that is, from 7am to 11am and from 1pm to 4pm, which means, a total of seven hours. If the workers have to serve for eight hours, they would not find any time for lunch and rest,” said a source.
The state labour department convened a meeting of the management and the workers to discuss the working hours.
“We didn’t accept the proposal but there were no protests or movement in the garden in recent times. Everything was fine but today, suddenly, the management abandoned the garden,” said a worker.
Representatives of the tea company which owns Rheabari could not be contacted for their version of the garden's abandonment.
Subhrajyoti Sarkar, the assistant labour commissioner of Jalpaiguri, said at the tripartite meeting on Thursday, the workers had been urged to maintain law and order in the garden.
“Today, we learnt that the garden had been abandoned. Senior officers of our department are taking necessary steps to facilitate the reopening of the garden,” said Sarkar.