Agri Business

ITA rules out tea union's demand for wage hike

Santanu Sanyal Kolkata | Updated on September 05, 2011

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The Indian Tea Association (ITA), prior to the meeting for wage negotiations in respect of tea gardens in Dooars and Terai, has sounded a note of warning that any attempt to equate the positions of Dooars and Terai with those with Darjeeling will have disastrous consequences. The meeting is to be held on Sunday.

The basic character of Dooars and Terai teas, which are of not-so-high quality, do not match high quality Darjeeling teas. The Darjeeling teas are exported in large quantities while Dooars –Terai teas are consumed mostly within the country. The average price realisation of Darjeeling teas in 2010 was Rs 310 a kg against Rs 104 a kg for Dooars-Terai teas.

This year, the Darjeeling average so far has been Rs 17 a kg higher than the last year's average whereas the Dooars-Terai average shows a marginal increase of Rs 4 a kg.

Citing the Darjeeling wage settlement, the unions, the ITA statement points out, are taking position that the wage negotiation has to begin at a level of minimum wage of Rs 90 for a worker a day with retrospective effect from April 1, 2011. But such a demand is unacceptable, says ITA, pointing out that an upfront increase of Rs 23 over the present level of Rs 67 will push up the cost of Dooars-Terai made tea to the tune of Rs 14-15 a kg, rendering many tea estates in the region unviable. The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations is prepared for some flexibility over the offer of Rs 75 for the first year; however, the starting wage has to be kept substantially below Rs 90, as demanded by the unions, the statement observes.

Several rounds of discussions at Tripartite Forum between the various unions representing tea garden workers, and the CCPA representing the management have been held from time to time towards a resolution on the wage matter. The Labour Commissionerate too has been an active party to such conciliations but no settlement could be reached as yet.

The State Government will be aware that during the crisis period between 2000 and 2008 some 50-60 tea gardens were forced to close in the Dooars and Terai and it is only in the last few years that some of these properties have resumed operations, the statement adds.

Published on September 05, 2011

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