KOLKATA: A tripartite meeting has begun on Friday to resolve the impasse overpayment of bonus to workers of the Darjeeling tea gardens.
West Bengal Labour Minister Malay Ghatak has to intervene after several rounds of talks between workers' unions and the estate managements had failed.
In the ongoing meeting, the minister was apprised of the bonus issues by the leaders of unions and he has started discussing the matter with the representatives of tea garden managements at his office in the city, sources said.
Around 87 Darjeeling tea gardens employ about 55,000 permanent and 15,000 temporary workers.
The unions have been demanding 20 per cent bonus while tea garden managements have offered just 15 per cent.
A representative of a union, present at the meeting, told PTI that they will not agree to anything below 20 per cent as demanded.
The bonus in the plains had been finalised and paid to the workers at a rate of 18.5 per cent. "A settlement at 18.5 per cent, similar to Terai and Dooars tea gardens, could be agreed if the management had paid the bonus before the festival. Now the festival is over and the workers are annoyed. We would not agree below 20 per cent," the union representative said.
Darjeeling tea management had offered 12 per cent bonus initially but later revised to 15 per cent after the state government had requested them to hike their offer.
A 12-hour strike was observed last Friday in the hills over the same issue that affected thousands of tourists, and tea production. Binay Tamang fraction of the tea workers unions are on a hunger strike over the issue.