Himalayan Plantation Workers’ Union (HPWU), the trade union of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) on Tuesday threatened to gherao Lalkothi, the headquarters of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), if their demand for wages for tea workers the period of 104-day shutdown in the Hills last year is not met.
The trade union made this announcement soon after it gheraoed the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s office here on Tuesday. Tuesday’s gherao progrmme was meant to press for their different set of demands, with the major one being fringe benefits for tea workers working for 120 days as per the Plantation Labour Act.
“We have a list of demands, including wages for last year’s shutdown period, as they also faced a lot of hardships during that time. If government service holders, along with others, can be paid for that period, tea garden workers should also be paid through the GTA. We will wait for some time for our demand to be met, or we will gherao Lalkothi in the coming days,” HPWU general secretary JB Tamang said.
Among the other demands the union put forth on Tuesday at the ALC office included the second installment of last year’s puja bonus in the Rangli tea garden, for which they have set a deadline of 15 April, after which they would stop the dispatch of tea leaves from that garden from the next day.
Similarly, they also have threatened to stop dispatch of finished Darjeeling tea from 21 April if garden managements fail to follow the Plantation Labour Act and give fringe benefits to workers working for 120 days, and not the 180 long days the managements are doing right now. Fringe benefits include firewood, housing, umbrella and medical aid, which are mostly given in cash.
On 6 April, the union had gheraoed the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) and the Indian Tea Association (ITA) offices with these set of demands. The DTA and the ITA are umbrella organizations of tea gardens in the hills. Other demands include implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the tea sector.