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Wage directive creates flutter in tea industry

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Jan 2015 12:00 AM GMT

CM directs labour department to ensure compliance of minimum wage of Rs 169 in all industries

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, January 17: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today created a flutter in the tea industry asking the labour department to ensure compliance of the minimum wage of Rs 169 in all industries.

While the communiqué specifically mentioned that the minimum wages also applies for the daily wage workers in tea gardens, the tea industry was left confounded as it felt that the move was “arbitrary” and “cannot be done like this.”

“There is a formula to calculate the minimum wages. Moreover, the new wages will be recommended after the ongoing negotiations with the union (Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha). This cannot be enforced like this. It will not stand legally,” said an industry source.

“One has to justify it (the rate of minimum wages),” the source added.

Representatives from the tea industry have held a round of talks with the ACMS last month on the wage issue. The next meeting is slated to be held soon.

Currently, the tea workers in the State are entitled for a daily wage of Rs 94. The ongoing wage agreement – signed three years back – expires in March this year.

While the tea workers are demanding Rs 300 as daily wage, the tea companies insist that the amount is unreasoble given the facilities – health, education, housing etc – enjoyed by the workers. The companies are also taking into account the likely liability if it has to procure ration from the market for distributing it to the workers.

Interestingly, the State government had recently constituted a Minimum Wages Board which “will sit with various stakeholders and negotiate with the workers for fixation of the new wage.”

Political circles felt that the Chief Minister was “playing to gallery” with an intention of appeasing the tea community where the BJP and RSS were making strong inroads.

Gogoi’s popularity has drastically gone down in the tea belt, with BJP stalwarts like Kamakhya Tasa and Rameshwar Teli penetrating the old and traditiol Congress bastions in the tea belt of Upper Assam. “The Chief Minister, as such, wants to regain the lost ground and so he is indulging in such tactics,” said a BJP leader who did not wished to be med.

The minimum wage of Rs 169 is, however, likely to be enforced in the unorganized sector.

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