Darjeeling tea garden workers to get bonus

Darjeeling tea garden workers to get bonus

The workers in Darjeeling’s tea estates that have been closed since June 15, on account of the shutdown enforced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, will get bonus at the rate of 19.75%.

While bipartite negotiations have been on for some time now, the government intervened to facilitate a deal ahead of the festive season. However, it is unlikely that payments can be made in full as hardly three working days are available before the commencement of the Durga Puja next Wednesday. A majority of workers at the 87 tea estates have gone without salary for more than 100 days now.

“The gardens are open, and essential and maintenance service staff have gone about their duties of running the housing colonies and maintaining services like medical and water supplies,” a senior industry official said, adding that while these employees qualify for salaries, the tea estate workers do not qualify.

Higher than last year

The bonus rate is a tad higher than the 19% rate last year. The payment would be on the basis of the work done in 2016-17.

Industry sources estimate the payout at about Rs. 36 crore. There are some 55,000 permanent workers and 10,000 temporary workers who qualify for this payout, Arijit Raha, secretary general, Indian Tea Association said.

However, although the stalemate continues, some of the gardens have started operations with the workers themselves reporting for work. Castleton Tea Estate of Goodricke Group has been operational for three days now and the industry is hopeful of other gardens following suit next week.

Tea companies that have operations only in Darjeeling fear a severe cash flow problem following this halt, said A.N. Singh, the MD of Goodricke Group, which has several gardens in Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars.

Industry sources said that it might not be possible to pay anything beyond an adhoc amount prior to the Puja. “This payment, on the basis of the 2016-17 performance linked to a person’s output (leaf pluckings)… it takes time to compute the total earnings,” an industry official said.

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