Tea workers observe strike
TINSUKIA, July 4: Along with rest of the State, several thousand tea workers of nearly 400 tea gardens in Tinsukia-Dibrugarh district observed complete strike for an hour on Wednesday under the aegis of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) to demand enhancement of daily wage from the existing rate of Rs 137 and to provide an interim relief till settlement of wage policy. In a memorandum to the State Labour Minister and chairman of the Minimum Wages Advisory Board (MWAB), the Panitola branch of ACMS stated that even after six months, the daily wage of tea garden labourers had not increased even as the BJP in its election manifesto clearly committed to fix minimum daily wage at Rs 350. It strongly criticized the Chief Minister for his ‘indifferent’ attitude towards tea plantation workers. The memorandum urged upon the Chief Minister to grant an incentive of Rs 50-Rs 60 to every worker till final settlement with the management of tea companies.
Till recently the wages of tea garden labourers in Assam particularly were decided as per bilateral wage agreement signed between ACMS and the Consultative Committee of Plantation Association, an apex body of tea planters established in 1956, without any government interference but as the BJP strode to State politics, it constituted MWAD which decided to fix minimum wages of tea garden workers at Rs 350, that included cash and other benefits like ration and firewood.
Though all the stakeholders of MWAD were issued this draft notification to suggest views and opinions within 60 days, it is now more than three months but no fruitful suggestions have evolved. A senior manager of a reputed tea garden said the planters were in loggerheads over the issue. He opined that fixing Rs 350 would be just unmanageable and suicidal for a garden to sustain and many gardens would be forced to close down. A source said the MWAD should have examined the wage structure of plantation workers elsewhere like Tamil Nadu at Rs 234 and Kerala at Rs 301 to settle an affordable wage structure based on ground realities in Assam.