The tea garden workers want their daily wages hiked to Rs 351

In a significant decision before the upcoming polls, Assam Cabinet approved a daily wage hike of Rs 50 for the state’s tea garden workers on Saturday, a note from Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s office said.

“The wage of the tea garden workers was Rs 167. After talking to owners of the tea gardens and the workers union, the state government has decided that the new wages of the tea garden workers will be Rs 217,” Sanjoy Kishan, Minister of State, Labour and Tea Tribes Welfare told EastMojo.

Kishan said it is an interim wage hike and will be applicable from Monday.

According to him, there is no change in the Rs 101 non-cash component of the wages.

EastMojo had first reported on Friday that the state government is likely to announce an interim hike of Rs 50 and that the non-cash component is likely to remain untouched.

The hike will benefit around 7.5 lakh workers in over 800 tea gardens of Assam, but will not impact those working in the unorganised small tea gardens. The state cabinet announced the formation of a one-man committee led by JB Ekka, principal secretary, for equal wages to small tea garden workers.

The tea workers unions had been demanding that the wages be hiked to Rs 351. Trade union leaders said they are unhappy with the hike. “We are not happy with this hike. This is not what we were expecting. The BJP government has not kept its promise,” said Rupesh Gowala, the General Secretary of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha. Gowala, who is also a Congress leader, said the tea workers unions would also like to see the way the government has calculated the non-cash component of the wages. “We don’t know how they have calculated this Rs 101,” he told EastMojo.

The state government claims that the hike has been done balancing the survival of the tea industry and the demands of the workers.

“The tea garden workers had been demanding Rs 351. But we have taken this decision for everyone’s welfare,” Kishan said. “Both the tea industry and the workers should survive,” he added.

Assam produces more than half of India’s tea. The tea tribes community comprising originally of indentured labour brought in from other parts of the country to work in tea gardens now forms 17 per cent of the state’s population. The community has a significant presence in at least 35 Assembly constituencies of the state.

Rahul Gandhi, the senior Congress leader and Member of Parliament, recently said in Sivasagar that if Congress comes back to power, it would hike the wages to Rs 365.

“This is the first time the wages of the tea garden workers have seen such a big hike,” Kishan said. “The Congress governments would only increase the wages by Rs 5. In the last five years, on average, we have increased wages by Rs 16 every year,” Kishan said.

Kishan also clarified that it has been announced as an interim hike because of the Centre’s moves on the labour laws. To streamline labour laws, in 2019, Parliament passed the Code on Wages. The Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Code on Social Security, 2020 and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 were passed in 2020.

Reportedly, the codes are likely to be implemented soon.

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