Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Apart from concessions, there are two other factors which have an important influence on wages. In the first place, as we have shown earlier, the migration to Assam is one of families rather than of individuals, since the gardens offer employment to women and children as well as to men. In most other industries the scope for the employment of women and children is limited, and in consequence the worker usually leaves his family behind in his village, remitting money for its maintenance. On the plantations nearly all the members of a worker's family are wage earners and even children of tender age come. out with their parents to increase the family earnings. There are thus comparatively few non-working dependents in; a working class family. The effect of this on the standard of living is important for, even with low individual earnings, the total family income may be sufficiently high to prevent the worker from feeling the pinch of poverty. The second factor is the extent of standardisation in the matter of wages, as a result of combination among employers. The tea industry in Assam is perhaps the most highly organised industry in the country, and the Indian Tea Association, with a branch in each of the two valleys, represents about 90 per cent of the total area under tea cultivation in Assam. The object of this Association is "to promote the common interests of all persons concerned in the cultivation of tea in India". We have already seen that problems connected with the recruitment of labour have been of primary importance for the development of the industry and that joint action has been taken through the Association to prevent the enticement of labour from one garden to another. But efforts to regulate the relations between employers and employed go further than this. In addition to the " labour rules ", the Association has been able to enforce what are known as " wage agreements " among its members in order to secure, as far as practicable, uniformity in the matter of wages and to prevent one employer from paying substantially higher wages than his neighbour. The " wage agreements " are effected through district or circle committees which fix the level of wages for each area or district. Owing to differences in the character of the soil and in the nature of the work from garden to garden, it is not feasible to fix standard piece rates, but it has generally been possible for the district committees to ensure that the amount which can be earned in an hour by the worker of average capacity for each class of work is more or less uniform throughout the district. Each planter fixes his own piece rates but, in so doing, regard is paid to the agreement arrived at by the Committee in order that the wages of his employees may not be appreciably higher than the agreed level. There is thus none of the attraction of higher wages to tempt the worker to transfer his services from one garden to another. On principle there can be no more objection to the " wage agreements " than to the '' labour rules " of the Indian Tea Association, but we would again point out that the workers suffer owing to the absence of any organisation on their side to counteract the powerful combination of their employers.