28 February 2015

'Miserly Wages Will Worsen Poverty Among Tea Workers'


We are shocked by the tripartite wage agreement signed on 20.2.2015 in the presence of the State Government in West Bengal. The agreement has provided a raise of Rs.37.50 over three years to tea plantation workers in Terai and Doars and Rs.42.50 to workers in Darjeeling. Workers will therefore be paid a miserly amount of Rs. 112 .50 in the first year, Rs.122.50 in the second year and finally Rs. 132.50 in the third year. These amount to starvation wages and are likely to worsen conditions of poverty and malnutrition amongst tea plantation workers. We are thus likely to continue to get shameful reports of starvation deaths in an industry that is a huge export earner and has a flourishing and ever expanding domestic market.

By no logic can such an increase be justified. Firstly it comes nowhere near the repeatedly articulated demand by the workers for minimum wages, which all unions had calculated to be between Rs.285 and Rs.345. Nor does it make tea plantation workers at par with other sectors, with the State Government-declared minimum wage even in the poorest agricultural sector, being Rs.206 at present.
As a face saver, the agreement has also put down in writing that the agreement will remain in force till a Government committee formed on 17.2.2015 puts forward its proposal on minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act 1948. Despite repeated appeals by various unions, no deadline has been given for this committee and it has been asked to submit its report “as early as possible”.

There are well defined and well accepted norms for the calculation of minimum wages. In West Bengal, such an exercise has been carried many steps forward, with a draft notification given in 2010 by the previous Government. With proper political will of all concerned, the exercise to declare a minimum wage for the tea sector should be possible within a short time.
We call upon the State Government to ensure that the minimum wage committee submits its report in the next three months and that the wages in tea sector are raised to meet all accepted norms and Supreme Court orders for a minimum wage.

We also extend our solidarity and support to the tea plantation workers who will now have to continue their struggle for a decent wage.

Organisations:
All India Forum of Forest Movements
Asanghatit Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Union, West Bengal
Binodini Shramik Union
Chemical Mazdoor Panchayat
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee).
CHITRA - Centre for Human rights Initiative, Training & Research Association, Delhi
Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation (DDUDF)
Durbar Mahila Sammanvay Committee, West Bengal
Durbar Disha Mahila  Griha Shramik Sammanvay Committee
Garment and Allied Workers Union , Haryana
Haldia Dock Complex Contractor Shramik Union, West Bengal
Hazards Centre , Delhi
Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan , Haryana
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Uttarakhand
Hosiery Workers Unity Centre, West Bengal
Indian Oil Petronas  Contractor Shramik Union, West Bengal
IIT Kanpur Citizens' Forum
Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh
Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, Gujarat
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity, Assam
Mahila Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh.
National Hawkers Federation
Prayavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat
Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, West Bengal
Paschim Banga Swarojgari O Radhuni Union, West Bengal
Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh
People's Union for Democratic Rights(PUDR)
Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics Workers Union, West Bengal
Shramajivi Mahila Samity, West Bengal
Shramajivi Samanvay Committee, West Bengal
TUCI West Bengal State Committee
Udayani Social Action Forum, West Bengal
Uttar Bango Bon-Jon Shromojivi Manch, West Bengal
Vadodara Kamdar Union, Gujarat
Vettiver Collective, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Individuals:
Amit Bhaduri, JNU, Delhi
Ankita Agarwal, Jharkahnd
Chitra Joshi
Geeta Charusivam, Tamil Nadu
Greeshma Rai
Imrana Qadeer
Juhi Jain
Kaveri Indira, Hyderabad
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA , Delhi
Nandini Rao
Uma V.Chandru

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