Protest over wage pact

Jorhat, March 3: The Assam Mojuri Sramik Union today burnt the wage agreement signed between Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha and the tea industry on Thursday, saying it was a farce.

The union, which has nearly 90,000 members in the gardens across Brahmaputra and Barak valleys, also burnt the effigies of the ACMS and tea industry, for “cheating” tea garden labourers.

The Assam Mojuri Sramik Union was supported by Bagicha Sramik Samiti, another organisation representing tea workers.

The Assam Mojuri Sramik Union has been demanding daily wages for tea garden workers in Assam on a par with those in West Bengal and south India.

The agreement signed between the ACMS and the Brahmaputra Valley branch of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Association on Wednesday agreed on a daily wage of Rs 84 (an increase of Rs 12.50 from Rs 71.50) for tea garden workers to be paid between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013, the workers would receive Rs 89 each per day, while between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, each of these workers would receive Rs 94 as daily wage. The wage arrears from January 1, 2012 to February 29, 2012 will be paid by June 30, 2012.

The agreement, signed at the ACMS head office in Dibrugarh, also introduced an incentive to curb absenteeism among the tea workers. An attendance allowance of Re 1 will be paid to every worker who works for five or more days a week.

The Assam Mojuri Sramik Union, however, alleged that the hike was meagre and the industry and the ACMS had betrayed tea garden workers.

“The daily wage in the estates of south India is Rs 125-135 and Rs 85 in Bengal. There will also be a hike of Rs 5 in the daily wages of workers in West Bengal from April. If the tea industry in these states can pay such amounts why not the planters in Assam?” the union’s secretary, Dipu Saikia asked. .

Members of the union have been holding a 100-hour relay hunger strike in front of the deputy commissioner’s office here since Thursday.

Saikia claimed that the tea industry had been making huge profits in recent years and it was the duty of the industry to pay good wages to the workers.

“The incentive of Re 1 as attendance allowance is a joke. What do you get these days for Rs 1? The cost of a cup of tea has gone up to Rs 5 these days,” he said.
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