Tea bonus cheer
Workers in the tea gardens of the Terai and the Dooars in north Bengal will get their annual bonus at the rate of 20 per cent ahead of Durga Puja this year, higher than last year.
The decision was made at a bipartite virtual meeting held between representatives of tea planters’ associations and tea trade unions on Friday. This was the second round of talks held to decide on the bonus rate.
“It has been decided that bonus would be paid to tea workers at 20 per cent rate. The gardens will have to disburse the bonus by October 7,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, secretary general, Tea Association of India.
In 2019, tea workers received a bonus at the rate of 18.5 per cent.
On September 15, for the first time in the tea industry, a bipartite meeting on bonus was held through video conferencing amid the pandemic. Then, trade unions demanded a bonus at 20 per cent rate but no decision was made
On Friday, trade union leaders sounded elated.“Usually, four to five rounds of bipartite talks are held before the rate of bonus is fixed. It is good that this time, after many years, the rate was fixed only after two rounds. We hope tea companies disburse the bonus at the earliest,” said Mannalal Jain, vice-president, Cha Bagan Trinamul Congress Mazdoor Union.
He also mentioned that in 2019, 39 tea gardens had asked for concessional rates, citing their financial incapacity to pay the negotiated rate of 18.5 per cent.
“Accordingly, lower rates were finalised for each such garden through talks. This year, these gardens will pay at rates which are 1.5 per cent higher than what they had paid as bonus last year,” added Jain.
Gopal Pradhan, president of Dooars Cha Bagan Workers’ Union, said that during the pandemic, this bonus will help the workers’ families.
“There are many families where people are sitting jobless for months now. The cash they will receive as bonus will help,” said Pradhan.
The rate of bonus for the tea gardens of Darjeeling hills – there are 87 tea estates in the hills – however, is yet to be decided.
Last year, workers in the hills received a bonus at 20 per cent rate. “A bipartite meeting would be held on Saturday to discuss the issue,” said a source.