13 October 2014

Minister Agrees To Minimum Wages Panel In Tea By November First Week

A delegation from the United Tea Workers Front (UTWF) was told by Shri Moloy Ghatak, Minister-in-charge, Labour Department, Government of West Bengal that minimum wages in the tea industry would be implemented in another six months.A set of demands was submitted to him by the UTWF which are as follows:
a.       The State Government must immediately convene a tripartite meeting with the employers and unions in the tea industry to reach a mutual understanding on the wage issue;
b.       Regardless of the outcome of such a tripartite meeting, the State Government must immediately declare a minimum wage for the tea industry;
 c.        In the declaration of such a minimum wage, the State Government must ensure parity with the minimum wage it has already declared in other sectors, while also following widely accepted legal norms such as the 15th ILC norms and Supreme Court orders in the Workmen vs Reptakos Brett case and Unichoy vs State of Kerala. 

The Minister informed the delegation that the employers were stubbornly sticking to a raise of only Rs.132 in 3 years, which the Government found unacceptable, hence they were unwilling to call a tripartite meeting as they knew workers would also not accept the same.  On the other hand, the minister accepted the demands made by UTWF and agreed to set up a committee for the minimum wage of the tea-plantation workers under section 5(1) of Minimum Wages Act,1948 The hon’ble minister assured the delegation that his department would issue notifications for the said committee by the first week of November, 2014 and it would be mandated to submit reports and recommendations to the government within 3 months from its date of formation. He said that the government would thereupon issue the draft notification for the minimum wage for the plantation workers. As per Section 5 (2) of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, the minimum wage would then become enforceable within three months of the draft notification.

He thus assured the delegation that the minimum wages for the tea-plantations would be instituted within six to seven months. In response to the demands made by the delegation on the issue of closed gardens and their proper reopening, and the state government’s initiative and actions on the issue, it was reported that the hon’ble chief minister of the state has already written to the government of India about a possible takeover of closed tea gardens and their reopening.

UTWF affirms once again it stands for a consistent united struggle for the minimum living wages of the workers of the industry.

Signed: Anuradha Talwar, Kiran Kalindi, Sushovan Dhar, Debjit Dutta, Dipak Nag, Rohit Nag