Puja bonus issue stalemate continues

Workers at a tea garden in Darjeeling. SE Pic
Fri, Sep 27, 2019

DARJEELING: Trade unions failed to attend the tripartite meeting today on puja bonus negotiations called by the State government at Kolkata. The trade unions here contended that they got the news of the meeting late.
The tripartite meeting for discussions on puja bonus for tea garden workers had been called following a stalemate between the trade unions and Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA). The trade unions are demanding 20% puja bonus while the DTA, representing the majority of tea garden owners, is offering only 10.50%.
“We got the news of the meeting to be held at Kolkata today late after we had already announced our program. We thank the State government for taking the initiation so quickly but we could not go today as it was not possible to do that in the last minute,” said Bharat Thakuri.
Thakuri is the general secretary of GJM-affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union.
“Different trade unions held a meeting regarding this matter and have also sent a fax to the MIC, Labour department requesting him for another date for the meeting. We have also asked him that the meeting should be held in Siliguri but if they insist it should be held in Kolkata, we will sit in another meeting and decide on it,” said Thakuri.
Meanwhile, the DTA accused the trade unions of politicising the issues.
DTA principal advisor Sandeep Mukherjee said: “The trade unions themselves decided that bonus would be negotiated on the basis of collective bargaining. While the process of negotiation was going on September 23, they walked out of the meeting and launched various agitation programs from today.”
“The Labour department agreed to mediate on resolving the pending issue of bonus and called a meeting today but the trade unions did not attend which is illegal and with a malafide intention holding the Darjeeling tea industry and its employees to ransom. This is politicization of an uncalled issue which is causing financial loss to the industry and to the employees alike and disturbance of the prevailing peace which is highly condemnable and against the tenets of natural justice,” he said.
Mukherjee said the trade unions should withdraw their agitation and attend the tripartite talks called to resolve the pending bonus issue and desist from ‘willfully delaying the process of bonus negotiations’.
Meanwhile, the trade unions have gone forward with their agitation programs from today onwards like ‘Go Slow’ program from 8 am to 9.30 am along with a pen down in all tea gardens in the hills before which a gate meeting will be held daily. They have also stopped dispatch of readymade tea from today onwards.

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Altitude: 5,840 ft
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Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
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