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No end to PF default by Tea Estates despite action

ATEPFO Board of Trustees took seriously the increasing number of PF defaulting tea estates

Tea Estates

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  25 May 2022 2:15 AM GMT

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI: Assam Tea Employees' Provident Fund Organization's (ATEPFO) Board of Trustees took seriously the increasing number of PF defaulting tea estates, especially under big companies. The problem still persists despite the action taken against a section of PF defaulting TEs.

The existing rule is that a TE owner contributes 12 per cent of the remuneration of a worker, keeps 12 per cent from the worker and deposits both (24 per cent) in the ATEPFO.

In its recent meeting, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sanjay Kishan and other officials took note of the increasing number of PF defaulting tea estates run by big companies like Warren Tea, Williamson Magor, Apeejay etc. The Board decided to take immediate steps to realize all outstanding PF dues for the greater interest of tea workers. According to sources, ATEPFO attaches PF defaulting TEs and hands them over to interested parties that will have to clear the liabilities of the workers, including PF dues. Sometimes, the ATEPFO gives time to the management of the attached TEs to clear their dues.

According to sources, the ATEPFO first serves notices to PF defaulting TEs and gives them time to clear their PF dues. It is because the ATEPFO does not want to close any TE. It attaches TEs as the final option when the gardens do not avail of the offers to clear their PF dues.

The Board also expressed concern over the non-payment of PF dues against the tea gardens under the ATCL (Assam Tea Corporation Ltd). However, the Board extended gratitude to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for making budgetary provisions on account of the arrears PF dues of Rs 142 crore of the gardens under ATCL.

Over 600 tea gardens in the state have not deposited the PF dues of around 14,000 labourers and other staff members. The 600 TEs also include gardens that have less than ten pending PF claims. They, however, opt not to clear their PF dues. The ATEPFO issued show-cause notices to several tea estates. It also attached the property of some PF defaulting TEs. The ATEPFO cannot take action against a few other tea gardens because of pending court cases.

Official sources said that the ATEPFO earned a gross amount of Rs 966 crore from the investment of the PF Corpus dues in 2021-22, and this amount went directly to the PF members of the organization. The meeting decided to declare the gross interests in the PF account at the rate of 8.5 per cent for 2021-22, out of which 7 per cent would go directly to the PF accounts of the members, and the remaining 1.5 per cent would go to the pension fund framed for the said members.

Also Read: Tea Estates companies mortgaging gardens worries Dispur

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