Moloy Ghatak announced after attending meeting with representatives of tea planters’ associations and trade unions
The Mamata Banerjee government on Wednesday announced an interim hike of Rs 18 in the wages of tea garden workers whose daily pay would go up to Rs 250.
State labour minister Moloy Ghatak made the announcement after attending a meeting with representatives of tea planters’ associations and trade unions at the government guesthouse here.
“It has been decided that workers will receive a hike of Rs 18, which means they will be paid Rs 250 per day. The planters’ associations want the revised wages to be implemented in June but the unions want it to be effective from January. It will be finalised soon,” said Ghatak.
The government had in June last year increased the wage by Rs 30 a day. As of now, a tea plantation labourer is paid Rs 232 a day.
“When our government came to power in 2011, the wage was Rs 67. It will increase to Rs 250. This indicates the state’s commitment to the tea workers and their families. Along with the regular revision of wages, the government has come up with a number of other initiatives for them,” Ghatak added.
The minister said the government had constituted a committee in 2015 to recommend a minimum wage for tea estate workers. Seventeen meetings of the committee have been held so far but no decision made.
“The committee has been asked to work on the issue. We want the minimum wage to be fixed for the tea industry. Till then, the interim hike and the new wage will be effective,” Ghatak said.
Trade union leaders, however, said the government should take the initiatives to fix the minimum wage.
“We had made our submissions to the committee at its earlier meetings. Yet, the government is not announcing the minimum wage and instead, coming up with interim hikes. Also, a number of other issues pertaining to the workers are pending,” said Ziaul Alam, the convener of the Joint Forum, an apex body of tea trade unions.
Representatives of tea planters’ associations said they were concerned over the financial sustenance of a number of estates.
“Wage covers around 55 per cent of the cost of production. The wage has been regularly revised and costs of other components like fuel and fertiliser also increased over the past few years. On the other hand, tea prices have not gone up proportionately. We apprehend that a number of tea gardens might face financial instability,” said a representative of the association.
Political observers said the back-to-back decisions by the Trinamul Congress government for the tea industry — a few days back, the state had announced the regularisation of the small tea plantations — would help the party in the tea belt. In the recent elections, a considerable section of tea workers and their families supported the BJP.
“But important moves like increase in wages and regularisation of land in the small tea sector will be of help for Trinamul. Once the revised wage is implemented, Trinamul will surely start drawing parallels with the wages in Assam where the BJP is in power,” said an observer.