Tea factories agree to pay laborers minimum wage

Published On: April 17, 2019 09:19 AM NPT By: Bhim Chapagain

Ask government to fulfill their demands at the earliest

ILAM, April 17: Tea factories in Suryodaya Municipality of Ilam have expressed commitment to implement minimum pay fixed by the government for the time being. Owners of tea factories, however, have said that they will launch protest against the government if their demands are not addressed.

Their commitment has come at a time when tea workers have been waging protest against the factory owners, demanding implementation of the minimum wage fixed by the government. Tea workers are on a strike since March 31. 

Organizing a press conference on Monday, Suryodaya Tea Producers Association, which represents the owners of tea factories and tea gardens in Suryodaya Municipality, said tea factories would implement the minimum pay fixed by the government. A meeting of the association 

held on Saturday also decided to implement other provisions enshrined in the Labor Act, according to officials of the association.

"Now that we have decided to fulfill demands placed by tea workers, the government should also address our demands," Punam Rai, president of the association, said in the press meet. “We have submitted a 20-point charter of demands to the government,” Rai said, adding: “If these demands aren't met by July, we will launch different protest programs.” 

Rai further added that tea factories cannot provide minimum wage and implement provisions mentioned the labor act unless their demands are addressed by the government. According to Rai, small-scale industries will find it really difficult to provide minimum pay to workers and implement Labor Act.

The government fixed minimum daily wage of workers at Rs 375 on July 17 last year. However, laborers are receiving only Rs 265 to Rs 308 even today. As per the minimum pay fixed by the government, laborers are also entitled to an additional pay of Rs 42 per day. 

Now, all industries affiliated with the association will provide daily wage of Rs 427 to laborers, according to Gopal Kattel, secretary of the association. "Those laborers, who have worked consistently after July 17, will be provided the new pay from that date itself," he said, adding: "We are yet to hold discussion on pay of laborers working in tea gardens,"

As per the Labor Act, employers should provide letter of appointment, insurance, holidays, and medical treatment to laborers. Additionally, employers have to provide a month's wage as festival allowance. Similarly, Labor Regulations also has provisions for provident fund, gratuity, leave, letter of appointment, and permanent appointment, among others.

Suryodaya Municipality had forged coordination with the concerned government agencies and tea factories and garden owners to provide minimum wage to laborers. Trade union of labors and representatives of tea factories held two rounds of talks to resolve the impasse. The municipality also facilitated a meeting between industrialists and Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security.

There are 61 tea factories in the municipality.

Industries not affiliated to the association are still on demands placed by laborers. Seven government tea gardens in Ilam and Jhapa, which are leased to private party, are not affiliated to the association.

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