The trade union of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (Binoy Tamang faction), Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU), on Thursday threatened to stop plucking of first flush tea leaves in the Hills if garden owners failed to provide wages, provident fund and other benefits to their workers in time.

The DTDPLU on Thursday organised a rally, demanding wages of two fortnights and a month’s salary for sub-staff and staff of Singtom tea garden, while union leaders also met the Assistant Labour Commissioner. “The rally was held against the atrocities of the management on tea garden workers at Singtom tea garden. The workers there, who did not work in the rainy season, are denied work for four months during the winter, which we do not agree. The wages and salary are also not being paid properly every week,” DTDPLU leader JB Tamang said.

“Gratuity is also due from the year 1995 in Singtom. PF is not paid not only in Singtom but in 14 other gardens run by the Bansal group. A total of 322 workers in their tea gardens are also yet to get their gratuity. Today, we went to the ALC and the PF office regarding issues related to Singtom only,” said Mr Tamang.

According to him, the agitation for workers that has started from Singtom would be taken to other gardens as well. The DTDPLU leader also maintained that though the 6th pay commission had been implemented in the state, and even after an agreement in a tripartite meeting between the state government, trade unions and the management on 13 December 2018, the Minimum Wages Act has not been implemented in tea gardens.

“We want the central government to implement Minimum wages as soon as possible, while we have asked the ALC to take legal action against those garden owners who have not paid gratuity, salary, PF and other benefits,” said Mr Tamang.

According to him, he also told PF officials that they should organise rectification camps in tea gardens for Aadhar cards as there were errors in the names and other details. “If the owners do not give the workers things like wages, PF and other benefits, we will stop the plucking of the first flush tea in Hill tea gardens,” Mr Tamang said. The Singtom tea estate is about 12 km from Darjeeling town and has around 850 workers.