Gorkhatimes

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Consensus on hill garden bonus – Grade a tea estates to pay workers at 17%

Posted by Ramesh Khati on September 7, 2009

Relief before puja

Relief before puja

Darjeeling, Sept. 6(Telegraph): The Darjeeling tea industry and trade unions have reached an agreement to disburse bonus at rates higher than last year, though nature’s vagaries and the agitation in the hills have meant that the payment is a shade lower than what the workers in the Dooars were offered.

Following a marathon meeting which went past midnight here yesterday, the garden managements and the unions agreed that Grade A estates would provide bonus at the rate of 17 per cent. The labourers of the gardens in grades B, C and D will get the bonus at the rates of 16, 15 and 13 per cent.

The gardens are graded on the basis of various yardsticks, including profit. The bonus percentage is calculated on the total annual earning of a worker.

Last year, Grade A, B, C and D gardens had received bonus at the rates of 15, 13, 12 and 10.25 per cent respectively.

According to the Plantation Labour Act 1951, a worker is entitled to a minimum bonus of 8. 33 per cent.

Suraj Subba, general secretary, Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, an affiliate of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, said: “We are happy and satisfied that we could manage higher rates for the garden workers this year.”

Bimal Gurung, the president of the Morcha, expressed his happiness at the outcome of the meeting.

Sandeep Mukherjee, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association, an umbrella organisation of the estates in the hills, said: “Yesterday’s meeting was the second one to decide on the bonus rate and it was attended by the trade unions of all political parties, except the one affiliated to the Citu (Darjeeling Chai Kaman Mazdoor Union). We have decided to disburse the bonus by September19.”

The first round of the meeting was held on August 28.

Sources said the rates were slightly lower compared to the estates in the Dooars, where managements agreed to pay bonus at the rates of 18, 16.5, 15 and 13.25 per cent for grades A, B, C and D gardens.

The hill gardens cited the devastation caused by cyclone Aila and the agitation launched by the Morcha as reasons for the lower rates. Nevertheless, these are the highest bonus rates for the hill gardens in the recent past.

“Hill estates had to invest a lot for the rehabilitation of the workers and to maintain infrastructure. Moreover, there was drought-like condition during the first flush and transportation of tea was hampered during the second flush because of the Morcha agitation. The figures produced by the unions and the management showed that there was loss in the production to the tune of 30 per cent this year,” one of the sources said.

There are more than 80 tea plantations in the hills.

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