DIBRUGARH, May 20 - Given the inordinate delay in fixing the revised minimum wage and disbursing the arrears of some seven lakh plantation workers in the State, the leading trade union of the plantation workers, the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) has suspected a nexus between the tea planters and the State government.
The tea garden workers who are the actual force behind the thriving tea industry of the State continue to live in an abject poverty with a mere Rs 167 as their daily (cash) wage. The workers were supposed to get an enhanced wage from January 1, 2018 following expiry of the last wage agreement on December 31, 2017. However, due to failure in fixing the revised minimum wage, the government had announced an enhancement of the wages by an interim amount of minimum Rs 30 per day with retrospective effect from March 1, 2018 vide notification (No.GLR (RC)178/2014/Pt/321, Dated Dispur, the 3rd July, 2018) till finalisation of the revised minimum wages. The workers till December, 2017 were getting mere Rs 137 as their daily wage.
Rupesh Goalla, general secretary, ACMS told newsmen here today that the tea industry had not paid its workers the notified interim amount from the month of March to July, 2018 as notified by the government. �The workers have been demanding time and again their dues but the plantation managements have not responded. The government is also not pursuing the matter at all. More than one and half year has passed after the Minimum Wages Advisory Board was formed on September 15, 2017 for fixation of the revised minimum wages, but nothing has emerged so far. There must surely be some understanding between the government and the planters in depriving the workers of their dues,� said Goalla. It is pertinent to mention here that it was also the poll promise of the BJP-led State government that the workers would benefit Rs 350 as daily wages under BJP government.
The Advisory Board had recommended a revised minimum wages of the workers at Rs 351.33 (inclusive of both cash and kind component). However, following objections from the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations, the government constituted a One-man Committee with Sanjay Krishna, the Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management Department to examine the objections. Since then, the wage revision exercise has not moved any further, informed the ACMS leader.
It needs to be mentioned here that earlier, the wages of the plantation workers were fixed bilaterally between the ACMS and Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations. But the Assam government for the first time constituted an advisory body to fix the minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act 1948 but has failed to make any breakthrough in this respect.
Incensed by the delay and indifferent attitude of both the State government and tea garden managements, Goalla said that the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha in its working committee meeting resolved to launch a state-wide stir for the immediate fixation of the revised minimum wages and immediate release of the arrears of the workers. As per resolutions taken by the ACMS, he said that the workers would submit memorandums to the managers in their respective tea gardens on June 1 and stage one-hour dharna in front of the offices of the tea estates on June 17. Further on June 19, a six-hour demonstration will be organised in front of the offices of the tea estates from 8 am to 2 pm. The workers will resort to strike on June 24. All gardens will remain shut for the day on the strike day. On June 27, the workers will stage one-hour demonstration in front of the offices of their respective Circle Offices, Sub-Divisional Offices, offices of the Deputy Commissioners and submit memorandums to the Chief Minister and the Labour Minister, said Goalla.