Joint Forum (JF), a conglomeration of over 23 trade unions, will hold a meeting on 29 June to formulate its next course of action to press for the demand for implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in tea plantations after the 25-June deadline set by the Forum already expired.
According to sources, JF leaders have finally decided to begin demonstrations in tea plantations in the Terai and the Dooars from 2 July to 7 July on the issue.
Sources also said that the JF may serve another notice to employers on 9 July before organising a bigger movement, including strikes.
It may be noted that the Forum had served a similar notice on June 9 to employers on the issue and set a 25- June deadline for implementation of the Act for tea workers. Tea workers under the banners of several trade unions staged demonstrations in front of the Joint Labour Commissioner’s office in Siliguri. On the other hand, highlighting the issue, trade unions staged demonstrations at Margaret’s Hope tea estate to mark the police firing on agitating workers on 25 June 1955.
Though Trinamul Congress-backed trade unions have been opposing the Forum on the issue of tea workers’ movement on various issues, a Dooars-based TMC leader had recently written to state labour minister Moloy Ghatak, seeking his intervention in streamlining some planters, considering the plight of tea workers who have been rendered jobless after sudden closure of the gardens.
Such a decision was taken following the closure of a garden after its reopening in Alipurduar district recently.
Asked to comment, spokesperson for the Forum, Zia-ul Alam said: “We will hold a meeting on 29 June to chalk out the blueprint of our greater movement, including strikes. We will start staging demonstrations in each garden from 2 July. It will continue till 7 July and then we will serve notices to employers on 9 July.”
“In the last tripartite agreement in 2015 for tea workers’ wages, it was pointed out that the Minimum Wages Act would be implemented. But nothing has been done. We will serve notices to the employers and copies will be forwarded to the labour department.”
On the other hand, Labour Commissioner Jawaid Akhtar yesterday issued a memorandum for an interim increase in salary at the rate of 18 per cent over and above their respective scale of gross pay on March 2017 with retrospective effect from 1 January 2018 for all monthly-rated employees in tea plantations.