Darjeeling tea industry workers to receive 19.75 percent bonus in two installments
Darjeeling, September 22, 2017: A marathon meeting that had started at 2:30pm on Thursday and ended at around 1am on Friday resolved the Darjeeling tea industry bonus issue. Workers are to receive 19.75% bonus for the financial year 2016-17. The bonus will be disbursed in two installments.
The agreement signed between the operating tea trade unions, the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA,) representing the Management and the State Labour Commissioner states "The amount of bonus will be paid in two installments. 50% of the total amount of bonus will be paid within 7 days after normalcy is restored in the respective tea gardens as 1st installment. The date of disbursement of the remaining 50% of the total amount of bonus as 2nd installment will be decided after Puja vacation in a meeting to be held on 14th October 2017."
Out of 87 gardens, 66 gardens come under this agreement. The remaining gardens opted out
The 87 gardens have remained shut for the past 100 days owing to the indefinite bandh call by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in support of the Gorkhaland demand.
"Our job was to negotiate bonus for the workers and we have done it. We do not have anything to do with whether the tea gardens will open or not or whether the Banks will open or not" stated Suraj Subba, General Secretary, Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, the largest tea union affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM.)
For the bonus agreement to be implemented normality has to be restored in the gardens and banks in the Hills have to be functional so that cash can be withdrawn and disbursed.
"For ages workers have been receiving bonus before the festival of Dusserah. With this money they buy new clothes for their family members and celebrate the festival. Let this tradition continue. We appeal to the GJM to lift the bandh and restore normality. There are other forms of agitation which they can indulge in. Bandh is no solution to any issue" stated Rajen Mukhia, Trinamool Congress leader.
On September 18, rebel GJM leaders Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa had met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee apprising her of the woes of the tea garden workers owing to the more than three month long closure.
Following the meeting with the GJM leaders, the Chief Minister had directed that a tripartite talks be held on September 21 between the tea garden unions, tea management and the State Labour Commissioner to ensure that bonus be paid in Hill tea gardens and normalcy be restored. A few gardens in the Kurseong belt have opened up recently.
There are around 85,000 workers, both permanent and temporary, employed in the 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling. Last year the Darjeeling gardens had received 19% bonus.
Thursday's meeting at Uttarkanya, the mini State Secretariat near Siliguri was attended by the State Labour Commissioner, representatives of the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA,) representing the Management along with representatives of operational tea garden unions affiliated to the TMC; CPIM; both the Binay Tamang and Bimal Gurung factions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha; Gorkha National Liberation Front; Jan Andolan Party and the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist.