Ensure bonus payment to tea workers

Ensure bonus payment to tea workers: Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee on Monday asked Darjeeling tea garden owners to ensure payment of bonuses to workers.

A tripartite meeting between the State labour department, tea garden owners and workers will be held on September 21, to arrive at a consensus on the issue of bonus payouts, she told newspersons at the State Secretariat.

According to Banerjee, expelled Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa had come down to discuss the plight of the tea garden workers.

“The situation in Darjeeling is getting better…..we want gardens to reopen and (owners) look into the issue of bonuses,” she said.

Nearly 85,000 odd workers, both permanent and temporary, employed across 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling, have not been reporting to work for nearly three months now following the indefinite shutdown in the hills.

Per the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, an employer is bound to pay the employee a minimum 8.33 per cent of the annual wages as bonus every accounting year irrespective of whether the company has any allocable surplus cash or not. The maximum permissible bonus is 20 per cent.

₹400-crore loss But, with the industry staring at a collective loss of ₹400 crore on account of absence of production of the premium second flush tea, estate owners have been seeking a relief package.

The industry has lost nearly 70 per cent of its annual production of 8 million kg of Darjeeling tea this year. Second flush accounts for nearly 40-45 per cent of the industry’s revenues.

Among the several gardens, a section of the workers reported to work at Gooricke’s Springside estate.

According to AN Singh, managing director and CEO, Goodricke Group, its Springside tea garden in Darjeeling opened on Monday with nearly 70 of its 250 odd workers reporting to work. The company owns eight tea gardens in Darjeeling.

“Some 70 odd workers have reported to work today, so far there has been no unrest,” Singh told BusinessLine.

Turmoil continues However, the GJM leadership still seems to be unrelenting. Contrary to the CM’s claim of normalcy returning in the hills, GJM secretary Roshan Giri maintained that the strike is on.

“People are willing to continue the strike…..it is Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa who are trying to showcase something else. The strike is on,” he told BusinessLine.

Incidentally, internet services continue to remain suspended in the region. The services have been stopped for nearly 90 days now, since June 20.

“We will assess and take a call on this,” the CM said.

(This article was published on September 18, 2017)
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