The Joint Forum, a front of 23 tea garden trade unions, today threatened to resume the agitation for minimum wage saying it would not let the state "impose" a draft agreement on the pay on workers.
The Joint Forum had already said it would not sign the draft.
Chitta Dey, convenor of Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers representing the Joint Forum, said: "Representatives of the government cannot place a draft during tripartite talks. According to the Industrial Dispute Act, the state can act as a mediator and cannot compel either side, trade unions or planters, to sign the draft agreement. During the talks in the past two days, we were surprised to see the labour minister insisting on signing the draft."
He iterated that none of the constituents of the forum would sign the draft. "The workers are disgruntled over the state's lackadaisical attitude to resolve the minimum wage issue. We want to make it clear that there is no question of signing any agreement for the next three years," Dey said.
"If the state forces us to sign or moves ahead with the draft, we would be left with no other option but to launch a movement to demand minimum wage. There will be rallies, meetings on estates, conventions and even industrial and general strike. The government should understand the problem cannot be resolved through coercion."
The forum held demonstrations last month and called a 48-hour tea strike and a 12-hour general strike in north Bengal.
Trinamul trade unions today said they had started consolidating support. "We are distributing copies of the draft among workers. Our leaders are visiting estates and telling workers that a section of unions under the Joint Forum is playing politics," Alok Chakraborty, working president of Trinamul Tea Plantation Workers' Union, said.