The tea plantation workers who were demonstrating for the last few days demanding a raise in their daily wages to Tk 300, returned to work at current wage of Tk 120 after a late night decision on Sunday.
The decision was taken at a meeting of administration and the leaders of Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union at the conference room of the office of Moulvibazar deputy commissioner. The two sides announced the decision in a joint statement.
Moulvibazar deputy commissioner Nahid Ahsan presided over the meeting, where police super Mohammad Zakaria, deputy director at Sreemangal office of divisional labour department Mohammad Nahidul Islam, Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union acting secretary Nipen Paul, vice-president Pankaj Kanda, organising secretary Bijoy Hazra among other were present.
The district administration convened the meeting at the order of prime minister Sheikh Hasina following the labour discontent at the tea estates in the country, said local administration and several sources present at the meeting.
High officials of administration, police, and different intelligence agencies and leaders of Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union attended the meeting that started at 9:00pm Sunday and ended at around 3:00am Monday.
The decisions taken at the meeting were recorded on the official letterhead of the Moulvibazar deputy commissioner and declared. It said the Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union, with trust in the prime minister and relying on her and at her honour, will call off their strike and resume work on Monday. The plantation workers will work at their current daily wage of Tk 120. Later, the wage will be fixed through a videoconferencing with the prime minister. The tea plantation workers have requested for the video conference before the coming holy Durga Puja. The Prime Minister’s Office will inform them the details through the deputy commissioner. Other demands of the tea plantation workers will be submitted in writing to the deputy commissioner and those will be sent to the PMO. And, following the tradition, the tea estate owners will pay the workers the wage for the days they were demonstrating.
On behalf of the administration, Moulvibazar deputy commissioner Mir Nahid Ahsan, police super Mohammad Zakaria and deputy director at Sreemangal office of divisional labour department Mohammad Nahidul Islam signed the joint statement. On behalf of the Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union, acting secretary Nipen Paul, vice-president Pankaj Kanda, organising secretary Bijoy Hazra and finance secretary Paresh Kalindi signed the statement.
Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union organising secretary and Balishira Valley president Bijoy Hazra confirmed about the decisions to Prothom Alo on Monday morning. He said, “The meeting started at 9:00pm and ended at around 3:00am. It was decided that the workers will join work at Tk 120. We will abide by the order of the leader (Sheikh Hasina). The prime minister will talk to us. It was also decided that the wage will be paid for the days when workers were demonstrating.”
He further said, “There was no one of the owners in the meeting. Some people might join work at around 12:00pm as it would take time to inform all to resume work.”
Tea plantation workers’ union and local sources said Bangladesh Tea Association, an organisation of the tea estate owners, and Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union hold a discussion once in every two-year and fix the wage of the tea plantation workers. But every time the new agreement is signed after a long time of the end of tenure of previous agreement. This time the tenure ended in December 2020 but no new agreement could be signed in the past 19 months.
The Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union have been demanding to raise the daily wage to Tk 300 from existing Tk 120. The tea plantation workers of 166 tea estates started the countrywide strike on 9 August as the owners did agree to raise the wage to Tk 300.
Following a meeting on Saturday (20 August) the government announced the decision to raise the wage to Tk 145. The Bangladesh Tea Plantation Workers’ Union agreed to it and announced to withdraw the strike. But several valley committees (a valley consists of several tea estates), tea estate panchayets and workers rejected the raise and announced to continue the strike. Following this, the district administration and tea plantation workers’ union held the meeting on Sunday night.