State government pushing for Rs 169 minimum wage
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, March 26: The tea industry and Assam government are on a collision course over the issue of minimum wages, with the latter making its intentions clear that it is not keen to ratify the wages agreed between industry representatives and the workers' union.
The Consultative Committee of Planters Association (CCPA) and Assam Chah Majdoor Sangha (ACMS) had on February 26 inked a bilateral agreement, effecting a hike in the wages of daily labourers in tea gardens. According to the three-year agreement, the wages with effect from January 1 this year will be Rs 115. It will be raised to Rs 126 with effect from January 1 next year and then to Rs 137 in the third year.
Official sources said the State government this time is unlikely to ratify the CCPA-ACMS agreement as it had been “traditiolly” doing in the past.
Making its intentions clear, the Minimum Wages Board, constituted by the government recently, held its first sitting today with various stakeholders to negotiate for fixation of the new wage.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had in January asked the labour department to ensure compliance of the minimum wage of Rs 169 in all industries, including the tea industry.
The tea workers were entitled for a daily wage of Rs 94 as per the previous agreement.
Apprehensive of the government moves, a source in the tea industry said, “Traditiolly the wage agreements are inked between the industry and the union. The State government had been ratifying whatever is agreed between the industry and the union. However, this time, the government seems not keen to ratify the agreement. This is strange.”
The source said that the new wages were fixed taking into account the additiol benefits – apart from cash - provided to tea workers. “The ACMS has agreed. The new wages are being disbursed with effect from January,” the source said.
The All Assam Tea Tribes Students Union, however, has expressed dissent and has demanded further enhancement of the wages.
Official sources in Dispur said the government this time wants to notify a uniform minimum wage in the State, which is likely to be around Rs 160. Currently, the wages for Brahmaputra Valley and Barak Valley are different. The industry, however, has justified the separate wages in the two tea growing areas, citing the Minimum Wages Act, the Haren Das committee and Chetia committee reports. “The Act says that in a state there can be two different wages depending on the yield and price,” the industry says.