Tea plantation worker leaders have decided to call off the strike as their daily wage has been raised to Tk 170 from Tk 120 in a meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the owners.
Hasina also urged the striking workers to go back to work, her Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus said after the three-hour meeting ended on Saturday evening.
Kaikaus said festival and medical allowances, ration, subsidies and other facilities will also be increased in proportion to the new wage.
Hasina will soon speak to the workers via a video call, according to the official.
Later, the workers of Bharaura Tea Estate in Sreemangal took out a procession welcoming the decision. Their leaders said they would send notices to the plantations, asking the workers to return to work.
They said although the new wage is far less than their demand for Tk 300 and it will be difficult for them to cope up with a cost of living crisis amid spiralling inflation, they accepted what Hasina decided for them.
The workers launched protests on Aug 9, demanding Tk 300 as daily wage. They abstained from work for two hours daily for four days before the full-scale strike began on Aug 13.
Some of them went back to work after the authorities assured them of Hasina’s intervention to end the impasse and the owners offered a Tk 25 rise in their daily wage to Tk 145.
They rejoined the others in the strike as there was no sign of assurances they could rely on, the protesters said.
Tea garden workers are arguably the lowest paid people in Bangladesh and most vulnerable to crises like the one the country is facing right now with prices skyrocketing.
The strike affected the workers as well, besides production. Many workers said they were skipping meals with no income during the strike.
The owners, however, claim the workers are actually paid Tk 300 a day, including housing and ration costs.
Kaikaus said the increased allowances and facilities will take a worker’s daily wage to Tk 450-Tk 500, including the other facilities, as the workers will get a bonus for plucking extra tea leaves and the employers will raise their payments to the workers’ welfare funds.
Subsidies will be used to increase rations, he said. Currently, the owners provide the workers with flour at Tk 2 per kg after buying the product at Tk 28, according to him.
Medical facilities for the workers will be expanded while pension and payments for maintenance will be increased, the secretary said.
The wage has been raised by Tk 50 after 19 days of protests. It is difficult to run a family with this money in the current market. However, we will go to work tomorrowBhaskar Bhowmik, tea estate worker
‘STRIKE TO END’
The workers gathered in Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Habiganj and other parts of Bangladesh to hear the decision.
“The wage has been raised by Tk 50 after 19 days of protests. It is difficult to run a family with this money in the current market. However, we will go to work tomorrow,” said Bhaskar Bhowmik, a worker of Chandpur Tea Estate in Habiganj.
Nripen Paul, acting general secretary of Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union, its Organising Secretary Bijoy Hazra, Sylhet unit President Raju Goala and many other leaders said they were “happy” with the new wage.
“The workers said all along that they would accept whatever the prime minister says and go back to work ,” said Bijoy.