Siliguri: The Joint Forum of tea trade unions has called a wildcat strike in the tea gardens of north Bengal plains after a meeting with the state government and the planters on wage revision today ended inconclusively.
The Joint Forum, which has 29 trade unions in its fold and enjoys the backing all the political parties but Trinamool, has also called for gherao of the state’s branch secretariat Uttarkanya in Siliguri tomorrow.
Zia-ul Alam, the convenor of Joint Forum, said that the strike will start from tomorrow morning and last for three days till 9 August. The strike will be observed in all the tea gardens in Tearia and the Dooars but the ones in Darjeeling Hills will function as usual.
The Joint Forum had earlier served a notice on 17 July for a three-day strike from 23-25 July. But the state labour commissioner and the plantation owners urged it to call off the strike saying that they were willing to resolve the wage revision demand through a dialogue. This made the Forum put the strike on hold.
“Today, they called us for a tripartite meeting at Uttarkanya and during this deviating from the tone of discussion earlier, the state labour commissioner suddenly proposed the revised wage at Rs 172 a day. When we objected this, both the commissioner and the planters abruptly left the meeting caring little for so many trade union leaders and the fate of nearly 4.5-lakh tea workers who are living on penury,” Alam said.
Following this, the union leaders sat on a dharna at Uttarkanya till late in the afternoon and announced the strike.
Apart from the strike, the Joint Forum has called for a gherao of Uttarkanya tomorrow and a civil disobedience from Kanchenjungha Stadium in Siliguri on 9 August. They have urged common people to participate in the agitations in support of the tea workers.
State labour commissioner Jawaid Akhtar maintained that he had no option but to leave the meeting as the trade union leaders allegedly placed a fresh set of demands.
“They are not willing to accept the proposed revised wage and also demanding a cut in the minimum volume of tea leave that a worker must pluck, etc. Unless the representatives of the planters discuss this with their management, how can these demands met on the spot?” Akhtar said.
As of now, the tea workers in north Bengal get a daily wage of Rs 159, including the cash component in lieu of ration. Joint Forum says that when the minimum wage under NREGS is much higher, how come the workers be given such a low wage.