GUWAHATI: The Labour Department of Assam and the International Labour Organization (ILO), New Delhi, conducted a state-level multi-stakeholder consultation to set appropriate wages for tea plantation workers in Assam on Saturday.
The Principal Secretary of the Labour Welfare Department, B Kalyan Chakravarthy, highlighted the Assam government’s determination to set the minimum wage for tea gardens systematically and in alignment with International Labour Standards. He expressed gratitude for the ILO’s technical assistance and collaboration in establishing these wages across Assam promptly.
Ranjit Prakash, National Project Coordinator of the Setting Adequate Wages (SAW) Project at ILO, highlighted Assam’s pioneering status. He said, “Assam is the first state in India to adopt a scientific and collaborative approach, in line with ILO’s labour standards, to set minimum wages. This move will likely inspire other states and even regions globally.”
A significant aspect of the consultation was a tripartite discussion on the existing wage situation. The participants unanimously praised the government’s proposition for scientifically determining the minimum wage in tea gardens, based on criteria outlined in Labour Standards and with ILO’s technical expertise.
Prior to this state-level consultation, the Minimum Wages Advisory Committee convened under the stewardship of the Labour Commissioner, Assam. They detailed the roadmap and methodology for “setting adequate wages” for scheduled employment. ILO’s presentation on data-driven wage setting received positive feedback from all members. The committee acknowledged the intricate nature of the subject, emphasizing the need for multiple consultations. The idea of broadening the worker coverage to incorporate domestic workers under the Minimum Wage Board also received unanimous approval.
Highlighting the significance of this initiative, the Tea Association of India (TAI) noted it was the first instance where a multi-stakeholder consultation, involving the ILO, was summoned by the labour department to advise on wages for plantation workers. “It’s a landmark event where productivity-linked wages are under discussion,” said TAI, advocating for hourly wage rates, as prescribed in the minimum wage act.
They also emphasised considering the sustainability of the industry during the wage determination process. Representing TAI were P.K. Bhattacharjee, Secretary-General, and Dipanjol Deka, Secretary of the Assam Branch.