Friday, Sep 23, 2022 12:30 [IST]

Last Update: Friday, Sep 23, 2022 06:48 [IST]

Hills tea workers against phased payment of puja bonus

DARJEELING,:  The tripartite meeting for puja bonus negotiations on Wednesday agreed to pay 20 per cent puja bonus to tea garden workers, but the announcement failed to bring much cheer in the hills as the hills trade unions protested against the phased payment.

The meeting held in the office of Additional Labour Commissioner at Siliguri decided to give bonus in two instalments – 15 per cent before Durga Puja and 5 per cent before Diwali.

As per the proceedings of the meeting, due to a stalemate on the issue between the management and the trade union, State Labour minister through ALC had advised to provide 20 per cent bonus in two instalments.

In protest against the decision, the trade unions here decided to launch various protest programmes.

The BGPM’s trade union leader J.B. Tamang said, “Although our demand of

20 per cent bonus was agreed upon in the tripartite meeting, they will be giving it in two instalments which we do not agree with. In protest of this we have started gate meetings in all the 87 tea gardens in the hills from today onwards.”

“We have not signed the agreement yesterday and have staged a walk out from the meeting.  We should not be held liable if any disturbance is created in the tea gardens due to this,” he added.

They have also planned to hold gheraos in front of ALC offices in Kalimpong and Darjeeling.

Tamang informed that they would also write to Labour minister and concerned departments regarding the issue.

According to Tamang, it was decided that last year in a tripartite meeting that bonus would be given in a single instalment.

“If bonus can be given in one instalment in the tea gardens of Terrai and Dooars then why should it be different in the hills. Why is government afraid of the tea garden owners? This is done every time by the owners and it is their atrocities against the workers,” said Tamang adding that the government should act sternly with the owners and not work in favour of them.

Speaking on the absence of other trade unions in the tripartite meeting yesterday, Tamang said, “It was the government that had called the meeting and the other trade unions should have been present in it. They do not come and instead only talk through te media and provoke people along with blaming others. Being a trade union, we are working for the tea garden workers. We should be willing to go anywhere to discuss their issues.”

Apart from the BGPM trade union, only TMC (Hills) trade union was present in the meeting yesterday.

The seven trade unions under the Joint Forum (Hills) did not attend the tripartite meeting demanding that the meeting be held in the hills and not plains. The JF, which has trade unions affiliated to AIGL, BJP, GNLF, CPIM, Hamro Party, GJM and CPRM, also condemned the decision taken in yesterday’s meeting. The forum informed that they are planning to launch a series of protest programmes from September 25 onwards.

D.K. Gurung, president of Hamro Party-affiliated trade union, said, “The JF had earlier decided that they would not be attending the meeting on Wednesday as we knew that something like this would happen as the meeting had been called by the government after being asked by the tea garden owners. Last year also no trade union had signed the notification of puja bonus with them assuring that the system of instalment would be removed. Now they are the ones that are going against the decision.”   

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi