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Bimal Gurung pledges supports to tea garden workers’ issues

Darjeeling : The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labor Union has expressed its gratitude towards party president Bimal Gurung for assuring to support the cause of tea garden workers ahead of wage negotiations for the current fiscal. Gurung called a meeting of the trade union here in Darjeeling to enlighten its members of the work being undertaken and its progress. After the meeting, DTDPLU general secretary Suraj Subba said, “We are happy that our party is firmly behind us. Mr Gurung’s assurance is a morale booster. He has promised all help and support to the tea garden workers’ cause including fixing their wages.” The DTDPLU has already participated in two tripartite talks this year, on March 12 and 25. It wants the state government to implement workers’ wages according to the Minimum Wages Act. The union has also submitted a charter of demands to the state government that includes the demand for wage revision. "We met the state labour minister on January 7 and Tea Board of India representatives three days later with our charter of demands. 

We have also placed our demands with the CCPA, the Indian Tea Association and the Darjeeling Tea Association stating workers must be paid wages according to the Minimum Wages Act from this year onwards," said Subba. He said unlike other sectors, the Minimum Wages Act is not being implemented in the tea sector. "Wages are fixed by bargaining in tea gardens. But we demand the state government to first fix the basic pay structure of the workers,” said the union leader. Workers’ wages are reviewed and revised after every three years. After several rounds of negotiations, garden managements increased the daily wage from Rs67 to Rs90 on a one-time basis in April 2011. The Rs23 increase, or a 34 per cent raise, was a momentous move in the history of the tea gardens of the hills. 

Further, Subba said the union has suggested to the state government a way of calculating the minimum living wage for hill garden workers. “The calculation is based on market prices and the prevailing cost of living and the wage comes to around Rs321 per day. We want the state government to consider this suggestion and we are willing to wait for its implementation,” said the DTDPLU general secretary. The wage negotiation meetings that were ongoing had to be kept on hold because of the Lok Sabha election. The DTDLPU has also decided to organise awareness programmes across tea gardens in the hills to sensitise workers about the demands being made.

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