Following statement has been issued by the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) President V Shankar and General Secretary Rajiv Dimri:

West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu Plantations have begun work from 1st April in the period of Lockdown.
Greedy Plantation Owners Have Started Work in Tea Plantations in Assam, West Bengal and TN.
Tea Industry Owners Charter Demands 1455 crore from the Government but workers are denied wages and ration.

IN the wake of the increasing threat of COVID-19 pandemic, millions of daily wagers have lost their duly earned wages and opportunities for further earnings. Migrant workers getting stuck in distant states are starving in absence of mere subsistence.

Shockingly enough, the home secretary of Assam has issued a revised notice towards resumption of production in all tea gardens there w.e.f. 1st April 2020, Tamil Nadu plantations also begun work illegally seeking permission from the District Collector saying it is not industry and only agriculture, violating the stipulations of the lock down, jeopardising the lives of hapless workers as the usual process of tea production makes the idea of maintaining social distancing absolutely untenable. There is every possibility that similar complicit order may also be issued soon by the govt. of West Bengal and other tea producing states for resuming normal plucking and processing functions in the tea gardens there too. In Kerala we find that workers are offered leave with wages and also Lockdown ration. Perhaps, some partial, essential services are allowed in coffee, cardamom, etc., and also harvesting pepper.

In the 2nd most labour-intensive agro-based industry in India, the tea sector in both Assam and West Bengal, the profit-savvy employers seemed hell-bent to continue production as usual for harvesting and processing the lucrative 1st-flush crop that garners stupendous profit margin by sacrificing lives of tea workers to the Pandemic. The Consultaive Committee of Planters' Association (CCPA) enjoys unfathomable clout with the BJP govt in Assam and the TMC govt in West Bengal.

Consequent to the nation-wide lock down under the widening spectre of COVID-19, in view of a concerted persuasion of all the operative trade unions in both the states, the management had to declare a closure after 25th March 2020. The central government notification No. 40-3/2020-DM, dated 29th March under Disaster Management Act-1(A) categorically stipulates that there must not be any deduction of salary and wages of workers engaged in any industry for closure during the ongoing period of lock down. But, the planters have violated law and have denied wages and other benefits to workers.

Meanwhile, the CCPA in a very calibrated way, has urged the union govt. to release a special financial bailout package for tea industry to the tune of Rs. 1455 crores, citing calculated amount of losses for recurrent market downslide and the present shutdown of all sorts of production processes.

These business corporates even have the audacity to outrightly deny wages and salaries for the lock down, period and demand payment of wages for the tea workmen to be ensured by the central govt. to tide over their own much-pedalled, 'financial crisis'. They want to deny wages to workers and at the same time want to pocket their wages taking from the government. They want to earn double profit in the name of workers while pushing workers inhumanly to poverty and hunger.

CCPA remains notorious in denying as little as Minimum Wages in this 150 years old industry yielding enormous profit by way of export and domestic consumption of tea.

In the ensuing reverse-migration of daily rated workers from closed and sick gardens, has again increased manifold the impending threat of community transmission of the killer virus, not to speak of associated stigmatisation because of lack of shelter homes to observe 14 days mandatory home-quarantine norms.

AICCTU strongly oppose the illegal denial of payment of wages and salaries for the tea workers during the period of lockdown in Assam and West Bengal. AICCTU opposes boundless profiteering at the expense of the life and livelihood of the working population in tea sector.

AICCTU demands immediate close down of all plantantions - large or small – of all states in this period of Lockdown.

AICCTU Demands leave with wages, ration and benefits for all categories of workers and employees of plantation sector, including tea, coffee, etc., in Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.