Tea bonus to bring life to rural festive markets in Bengal tea belt
SILIGURI: Giving respite to the rural traders in northern Bengal foothills region, trade unions and tea planters finally concluded festive bonus negotiation for workers after long tug of war. Bonus earning of 4 lakh tea workers is expected to bring life to the rural festive markets that in turn can leave a positive impact on urban premium class markets too.
After pressing hard for 20%, finally a conglomerate of over 20 trade Unions agreed to accept 19.75% as rate of bonus for all gardens. But, for 46 financially weaker ones, payable bonus rate will be lower than this with minimum of 10%.
Out of near 200 gardens in foothills and 80 in the hilly region, 167 with near 2.5 lakh workers were part of the negotiation. As the conventions goes, rest will follow the decided rate or negotiate on one to one basis.
“Our demand for 20% was very rational. But, we are happy with the outcome,” said Saman Pathak, Darjeeling district Secretary of CITU a strong constituent of the conglomerate. Interestingly, Trade unions of different political standing were there together in the conglomerate.
On the other side, “It is going to be too tough to manage 19.75 percent after heavy downfall in business during last couple of months due to bad weather as well as turmoil socio political scenario. But workers are also our family members and we always try to do our best for them,” said K. K. Mintri, Chairman Terai Indian Planters Association.
However, the negotiation brought smile to the face of rural area garment traders, the largest beneficiary sector of festive bonus income of the tea workers . “After paying huge sum in advance, we were waiting for end of the negotiation that begins our sales flow. We are highly dependent on low income group buyers from tea belt,” said B Saha, an important low cost readymade garment wholesaler in Siliguri. Including him, around 100 wholesalers cater over 10,000 retailers in north Bengal foothills building a total estimated festive season rural garment business volume of around Rs 175 Crore.