TRADE unions sought a 20 per cent bonus for tea garden workers in Dooars and Terai of West Bengal, while planters’ bodies asked them to reconsider their demand because of financially stressed estates in the region, officials said.
A meeting between the constituent bodies of the West Bengal Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) and operating trade unions of tea gardens was held here on Thursday to decide on the rate of bonus for 3.5 lakh tea workers of Dooars and Terai for the 2022-23 financial year.
“The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere where both sides presented their views. While the unions have demanded payment of bonus at 20 per cent, the CCPA has made a plea to them to reconsider their position in recognition of the present financially stressed condition of the tea industry,” the plantation associations’ committee said in a statement.
Asked about the meeting, Joint Forum of Trade Unions convenor Zia-ul-Alam said that CCPA expressed their difficulties in progressing on negotiations during Thursday’s meeting.
“They started from 8.33 per cent and made an offer of 8.50 per cent as the base rate across the group,” Alam claimed.
Planters’ bodies could not be reached for their comment.
“They asked unions for a substantial reduction from 20 per cent,” said the official of the umbrella organisation of trade unions working in the tea sector. From the very beginning of the negotiations, participating representatives of unions unitedly stood for a 20 per cent base rate with flexible considerations for the financially stressed gardens, Alam said.
He claimed most of the gardens in the Dooars and Terai region had “offered a 20 per cent bonus to their workers for FY22 (2021-22), and some of the estates could not pay that much because of their deteriorating financial conditions”.
The meeting for bonus negotiations was adjourned, the CCPA said.
It added that the next round of the meeting is scheduled to take place in the first week of October.
A separate meeting for the annual bonus of workers of Darjeeling tea gardens was held recently.