Himalayan Plantation Labour Wokers’ Union (HPWU), the trade union of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), on Friday, threatened to block dispatch of made-tea from gardens in the Hills.
The union has given planters a deadline of 10 April to pay workers the ‘firewood money.’ According to the Plantation Labor Act, tea garden workers are entitled to many fringe benefits like medical, housing, ration and 320 kg of firewood on a yearly basis.
The management, however, has been providing them cash for the said benefits or Rs 40 to Rs 80, depending on the tea gardens. The union said that some gardens are yet to pay the money for the firewood for the year 2016- 17.
“According to the PL Act, workers have to work for 120 days to avail of fringe benefits, which include firewood. However, the management says that the workers must work for 180 days and those completing that many days have already been given the firewood money. We will not accept this form of atrocity,” JB Tamang, the HPWU general secretary, said here on Friday, also maintaining that the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), an umbrella organization of tea gardens in the Hills, has twisted the PL Act to ensure that workers work for 180 days in a year.
“We have decided that we will gherao the office of the DTA and the Indian Tea Association (ITA) from 7 April, and have also set a deadline of April 10 for the management to meet our demand. If they fail to meet our demand, we will stop dispatch of madetea from the gardens in the Hills from April 11,” he added.
The GNLF trade union is also demanding that the state government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration pay a compensation of Rs 10,000 to tea garden workers for the strike period. “Compensation should be given for the tea garden workers for the strike period as government employee and teachers were also paid their salary,” Mr Tamang said.