Bengal tea sector may to face huge loss due to bandh 

July 9, 2018

The brawl over wage policy in Bengal tea sector has reached its height. While conglomeration of trade Unions has announced a month-long agitation and 3- day strike, the entrepreneurs are predicting unprecedented loss to the whole industry due to the movement in this peak season. 

Since 1977, wages were negotiated for three years term as per previous workers wage settlement practice. But an uncertainty popped up at the end of 2011-14 term when asking for a change in the whole system, almost all TUs formed ‘Joint forum’ (JF) and demanded implementation of Minimum Wage Act replacing negotiation system. However, INTTUC – the TU front of state’s ruling party TMC- is not in the forum. 

Now JF has launched a multipronged field movement with frequent gate demonstrations or meetings and finally three days long strike from 23rd to 25th July. INTTUC has also announced its own separate movement plan with various demands. 

“Crunched under high cost of production and low realization coupled with whims of nature, tea industry is already in deep crisis. This movement will worsen the situation raising question on viability of the gardens,” said Sumanta Guha Thakurata, Secretary Dooars Branch of Indian tea Association. (DBITA). 

“Unfortunately the matter, which is under consultation with the Government, cannot be addressed by any individual Management,” he added. 

After strongly opposing the demand in nine rounds of meets during 2014-15, finally state government formed a committee comprising of representatives from planters, workers and Government to propose a new wage structure as per Minimum Wage Act. 
But, “Practically everything from the Government’s side ended there after that has compelled us to go for this aggressive movement,” said Saman Pathak, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, West Bengal state Working Committee member and a major functionary in the movement. 

However, “Monsoon’s share is 70% to the annual 300 million kg processed tea output of Bengal. Eventually, this movement will cause production loss of near 10 million kg per week putting whole industry under deep uncertainty,” said Mahendra Bansal, Chairman Terai Indian Planters Association. 

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