Tea workers of 23 gardens in Sylhet observed work abstention on Wednesday and threatened to go for an indefinite strike if their wages are not increased by tomorrow.
The tea labourers are paid under a wage agreement which determines their daily payments and other benefits, said Raju Guala, president of Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union in Sylhet.
The garden owners raised the daily wages of the tea labourers by Tk 16 to Tk 85 through the last wage agreement, which is supposed to be updated once in every two years, he said.
“The tenure of the last agreement expired in December of 2016. But the owners did not sign any new agreement and are still paying the workers at Tk 85 a day.”
“The owners always delay in signing new agreement. The raise they give under the last agreement signed in 2015 was not justified. Even the agreement was signed after a break of six years,” Guala said. “So we demanded the wage to be fixed at Tk 230 a day and pay the workers at the rate with retrospective effect from January 2017.” “So we urged the owners to renew the agreement by tomorrow; otherwise we will go for strike for an indefinite period.”
The wage of the tea workers should be increased considering the spiralling cost of daily commodities, said Jiten Sabar, president of Malnichhara Tea Garden Sramik Union.
Tea production will get hampered to a great extent because of the work abstention, as this is the high time for tea cultivation, said Mansur Ahmed, manager of Shreepur Tea Garden.
“The rough copy of the new agreement has already been finalised. But several discussions should be held between the workers and the owners to set the final wage,” said Shah Alam, vice-president of Cha Sangshad, the tea garden owners' association. “The workers are not interested to sit for discussion through which the problem could easily be solved.”