Tea garden workers in Darjeeling will likely to get bonus at a rate of 19.75 per cent of their annual wage earnings for 2016-17, officials of an union and tea producers’ association said on Friday.
“Due to ongoing stalemate in Darjeeling, the bonus payments to workers were not settled for Darjeeling gardens. After the tripartite meeting between workers’ unions, tea garden owners and the government, it was decided the bonus would be paid at 19.75 per cent of the annual wage earnings,” Convenor of Joint Forum of Trade Unions, an umbrella organisation of trade unions working in tea sector, and Citu’s General Secretary (Tea Industry) Zia-ul-Alam told IANS.
All plucking and manufacturing operation in the 87 gardens in Darjeeling have been suspended since June 9 due to the indefinite shutdown in the region called by the hills’ principal party, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, demanding separate state of Gorkhaland.
Expressing his satisfaction, Alam also said: “As per the agreement, the bonus would be paid at the earliest as the normalcy is restored.”
The tripartite meeting was a follow-up of the meeting called by West Bengal Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De with officials of the two tea industry associations – Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) and Indian Tea Association (ITA) on last Monday to initiate a dialogue to resolve the stalemate.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also said tea garden owners in the Darjeeling hills have been asked to resume operations and pay bonus dues to workers for 2016-17.
According to Arijit Raha, the Secretary General of Indian Tea Association, the largest tea producers’ body in India, said Darjeeling tea workers would get the bonus at the same rate of what would be paid to workers in the Dooars and Terai.
“The bonus for the financial year 2016-17 would be paid in two instalments. After the meeting, we are expecting that normalcy would be restored in the hills and workers would start coming to the gardens for work. Restoration of normalcy is urgently required as it will facilitate preparing of books and payments of bonus,” Raha said.
“As per the agreed rate, each worker,on the lower side, would get around Rs 9,000 as bonus,” Alam said, adding that workers, in the last year, got bonus at 20 per cent.
Raha said 50 per cent of the bonus for 2016-17 would be paid in the first installment and and the decision about the second installment would be taken in the next meeting to be held on October 14.
The tripartite meeting, which had started at around 2 p.m. on Thursday, continued past midnight.