Panighata tea estate announced suspension of work

Siliguri, Dec. 27: The management of Panighata tea estate announced suspension of work in the garden from today, citing lawlessness and indiscipline among workers.
Sources in the Tea Association of India said the garden had been closed after some labourers and union leaders had gheraoed the directors of the estate on December 22, demanding immediate payment of arrears.
“The management was concerned about the agitation, indiscipline and the overall environment of lawlessness in the garden. There were no major dues, but a section of workers kept pestering the management over the past few days. This prompted the management to announce suspension of work. We are, however, sincere about resuming activities in the garden and want the issue to be resolved across the table,” said Sumit Ghosh, the assistant secretary of TAI.
The Panighata garden is a member of the TAI.
Sources said the estate in Mirik, 35km from here, has around 750 permanent and 400 casual staff. The plantation is spread over 900 acres and the estate produces about 5.5 lakh kg tea annually.
According to trade union leaders, the owners have violated the industry-wide tripartite wage agreement that was signed in Calcutta on November 4. “According to it, workers were supposed to get their arrears from April 1 to October 31 at the rate of Rs 18 per day, the amount by which the daily wage had been revised. The amount was supposed to be paid in two instalments, first by December 25 and the other before Holi in 2012,” said a leader .
He added that the management wanted to pay the installments, most likely, after the ongoing lean season that extends till March. “This led to resentment among workers who gheraoed some of the directors on December 22. Sensing trouble, the owners announced suspension of work.”
Harihar Acharya, convenor of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-backed Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union that is dominant in the garden, said: “Some leaders had met the managers to ask them about the arrears. But it was later alleged that the owners were gheraoed by them.”
Aloke Chakraborty, the Darjeeling district Intuc president, said: “The management might have financial problems but they should have discussed the payments with us.”
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