Assam tea workers seek parity with those elsewhere


NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 15: The Joint Action Committee for Tea Workers’ Wages (JACTWW), Assam, came down heavily on the BJP governments at the Centre and in Assam for not keeping their word to implement the promised minimum daily wages of Rs 351.33 to 11 lakh-strong tea plantation workers in the State.
“Unlike their counterparts in south Indian States such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, tea estate workers in Assam get a meagre daily wage of Rs 167. During its election campaigns — both in 2014 and 2016 — the BJP promised that if it came to power the wages would be upwardly revised to at least Rs 350. All it did was to increase it by Rs 30 to Rs 167 per day,” said Bibek Das, central convenor of JACTWW, an umbrella organisation of eight tea workers’ unions and social organisations working with estate labourers, at a press conference on Thursday.
While tea workers in Kerala get more than Rs 300 a day, those in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are paid over Rs 250 per day and other benefits, Das said.
According to Stephen Lakra, president of the All Adivasi Students’ Association, Assam, also part of the joint action committee, the Government has been promising to implement a uniform wage bill for all tea workers in the country. Instead of adhering to its own promise, it has been resorting to the age-old practice of bilateral negotiation between tea-plantation owners and one particular trade union affiliated with a political party, Lakra said.
In July this year, following a strike in which lakhs of tea workers partook, the government revised the minimum daily wage to 167 whereas its labour commissioner recommended a wage of Rs 351.33 a day, Lakra said.
That, too, the government implemented from first of April this year, rather than January as is the norm. “By delaying the implementation by three months, it deprived tea workers a total of Rs 300 to 400 crore in arrears,” Das said. (Courtesy: The Hindu)