Darjeeling, March 4: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today upped the ante by enforcing an embargo on the first flush of Darjeeling tea to fulfil en extended charter of demands, which include housing and medical benefits, apart from a double hike in wages for garden workers in the hills.
Morcha chief Bimal Gurung had announced earlier that the embargo would be in force from March 7 if the wages were not hiked by the previous day. However, the party changed the tack and advanced the embargo today as “gardens have started manufacturing the first flush.”
“We have learnt that some gardens have started manufacturing the first flush and that is why we have decided to advance the embargo,” said Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union.
Besides the demand for the increase in the wage from Rs 67 to Rs 120-154, the union affiliated to the Morcha sought negotiations with garden owners on dearness allowance (DA), variable dearness allowances (VDA) and uniform rate for extra leaf price. The other demands relate to housing, ration, firewood, clothing and medical benefits.
Asked about the reason for raising more demands, Subba said: “Wage negotiations take place once in three years and it is a routine practice to place a charter of demands before the talks.”
Among the new demands is a hike in the DA, which is payable to the staff and sub-staff. “Since the agreement on wages and other payments is for a period of three years, the industry would not pay DA in the first year. Garden employees get DA at the rate of 8 per cent and 16 per cent for the second and the third years respectively,” said a source. (more…)