Kolkata: From the tea gardens in the hills and Dooars area in the North of West Bengal to the transport sector in South and state-owned enterprises like Coal India Limited and Steel Authority of India, CITU-led workers’ movements are achieving significant breakthroughs.
The yearly bonus during the festive season took a blow due to the pandemic, and the workers are fighting to reclaim it. In West Bengal, giving bonus to workers during the festive season in autumn is standard practice. In this season, festivals like Durga Puja, Diwali etc., lead to large spendings for workers to buy new clothes and other things for festivities. Even the state government’s labour department issues directives to all industrial and service units in the state for the payment of bonuses.
The tea garden workers achieved major success by securing a 20% bonus in one instalment in nearly all the tea gardens in the hills and the Dooars area (foothill of the Himalayas). The notable exception, like last year, is Sinctum Tea Garden, where the owners are not adhering to the government directive to provide a 20% bonus at one go, said Goutam Ghosh, a functionary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), while speaking to Newsclick.
Commercial bus workers are fighting in the state to get a 12% bonus in one installment. In about 60% of the bus routes, bus workers are holding talks in this regard with the owners. The condition is better in the districts than in Kolkata and its surroundings, where the CITU’s hold on the bus workers sector has weakened over time. There the bus owners are pressurising the workers to accept their terms and conditions. In Kolkata and its surroundings, the average bus workers are paid on a commission basis. However, in the districts, where salary system is there, the CITU has efficiently pursued the bonus demand with the bus owners’ syndcates and the condition is better, informed state CITU president Subhas Mukhopadhya , who is also a functionary of the Commercial Transport Workers Federation in the state.
In the organised sector, garment workers are getting a bonus this year as well, said Asadullah Gayen, a functionary of the West Bengal Tailoring and Garment Workers Union. However, in the unorganised sector where most of the workforce is employed, there will not be bonused this year as demanding bonus will mean workers being laid off despite having government directives in this regard.
Jute workers will be getting a bonus of 8.33% this year, informed Anadi Sahu, state CITU General Secretary and General Secretary of Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Union. However, CITU leader Gargi Chatterjee told Newsclick that the CITU and jute factory workers were not happy with this bonus as the wages due from the lockdown period has been cancelled during the computation of the bonus. After the festive period, there will be further movements in this sector, she said.
In public sector Coal India Limited (CIL), the workers have been able to up their performance linked reward this by nearly Rs 4,000. Last year, it was a total of Rs 68,500 while this year it will be Rs 72,500.
SAIL employees this year will get a festive bonus of Rs 21,000 while trainees will get a bonus of Rs 19000. General secretary of the Steel Workers Federation of India, Lalit Mishra, said that the festive bonus was a reward of the movement fostered by the steel workers federation.
However, the West Bengal government has minimised the bonus paid to its employees to Rs 4500. During the erstwhile Left Front’s regime, on average, a state government employee would get 30 days’ salary as a bonus.
Most of the Household workers in the state have demanded one month’s wage as bonus. In most cases in Kolkata and its surroundings, this formula works, said Tarun Bharadwaj and Indrajit Ghosh of Household Workers Union. Not a single allegation of violating this award has come in, they further added.