JORHAT, Aug 31 - The State government has asked the tea estates to declare bonus by September 2 and pay the same to the tea workers by September 10.
In a directive issued a few days back to all the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) and Assistant Labour Commissioners (ALCs) of districts having tea gardens, the Additional Chief Secretary (Labour Welfare Department), KV Eapen, asked the officials (DCs and ALCs) to inform managements of tea estates and tea planters� associations to discuss the issue of bonus payment and settle it before September 2. �For maintaining harmonious relation in the tea industry, it is advised that the issue of payment of bonus be amicably settled and announced by September 2 thereby enabling the workers to receive bonus by September 10,� the directive by Eapen stated.
The ALC of Jorhat, Ishanu Shah, who is also in-charge of adjoining Sivasagar and Charaideo districts, told The Assam Tribune that the district administrations of Jorhat and Sivasagar held meetings with representatives of tea planters� associations and informed them about the government�s directive on the bonus.
Shah said that in both the meetings, the representatives of various tea garden associations were asked to inform the garden managing committees to settle the issue of bonus by holding discussions with the workers� unions and end the process by making payment within the government stipulated time period.
Shah said that Labour department�s mediation could be sought by gardens if the managements and unions failed to achieve any amicable settlement. He said that tea gardens have been directed to be in touch with respective revenue circle offices and police stations and immediately inform if any situation arises that could disrupt law and order.
The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the largest and oldest tea workers� union in Assam, in a letter written to all five major tea planters� associations on July 5 last, urged the tea industry to declare the quantum of bonus and pay it to the workers at least three weeks ahead of Durga Puja, which commences from September 26 this year. The union had sought paying of the bonus in one-go rather than in instalments.
This time the process of bonus payment may not be a smooth one as senior officials of two big companies that held discussions with top leaders of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) at the union�s central office in Dibrugarh last week, offered to pay bonus at the mandatory minimum rate of 8.33 per cent under the Payment of Bonus Act, citing huge losses in the last fiscal year.
Both the companies in the past few years have been paying bonus at the maximum rate of 20 per cent. Last year they paid the same rate in two instalments � 15 per cent before the puja and remaining five per cent before Holi festival in early part of this year. As the ACMS did not agree to the offer citing possibility of labour unrest if such a decision of �drastic cut� was taken, the union told the companies to come up with better offers for holding talks on the matter possibly later this week or next week.