The state labour department in an advisory on Thursday announced that the daily wage rate for tea workers of Bengal was revised to Rs 250 a day, an increase of Rs 18.
This interim hike will be effective from June 1 this year, a move which is believed will help the ruling party of Bengal in the rural polls.
With this hike, the wages of tea workers in Bengal will be higher than that of Assam where the BJP is in power. As of now, workers of Assam's Brahmaputra valley get Rs 232 per day while those in Barak valley get Rs 210.
In Bengal, there are around three lakh workers who serve in tea estates in the organised sector, where this wage revision will come into effect.
The announcement came a fortnight after state labour minister Moloy Ghatak had said that the state intended to increase the wage by Rs 18.
On April 12, Ghatak, after attending a meeting with representatives of tea planters’ associations and tea trade unions, mentioned the hike while underscoring that the decision has been made as the planters and trade unions have not reached a consensus on the minimum wage rate which is yet to be fixed in the state.
On Thursday, Amarnath Mallick, the state labour commissioner, issued the advisory which has been circulated to the trade unions and the associations of tea planters.
As of now, a tea worker receives Rs 232 per day. The previous daily hike of Rs 30 came in June last year. Before that, the daily wage was Rs 202.
The decision has been welcomed by Trinamul leaders. However, unions affiliated with other political parties said the state should expedite the process to fix the minimum wage.
“In the past 12 years, the wage rate of tea workers has increased more than three times the old wage. It was Rs 67 in 2011 (when Trinamul came to power in Bengal). The state government has proved its sincerity towards tea workers.... As no decision has been reached on a minimum wage rate, the state government has come up with regular interim hikes,” said Alok Chakraborty, a senior trade union leader and chairman of Darjeeling (plains) district Trinamul.
“As Trinamul goes out to campaign for the panchayat polls, it will surely raise the wage issue and draw parallels with BJP-ruled Assam to drive home the point that the workers in Bengal are receiving higher wages. The saffron party had managed to build a support base in the tea belt of north Bengal. Now, it will be interesting to see how they counter Trinamul after this announcement,” said an observer.