After nearly five months of tough negotiations, the Jiujie Tea Plantation in Xinzhou District, Wuhan City, has signed its first collective contract. This details the minimum wage standard for major jobs in the tea industry, the percentage rate of pay increase, and a minimum increase of 5%.
The plantation has 12,000 acres of land under tea cultivation with more than 10,000 workers on the payroll, spread over 12 tea-processing plants. In May 2014, the Jiujie Neighbourhood Trade Union Committee set out to implement collective wage bargaining on the plantation.
To make a success of the job, it put together a special working group. At the bidding of the committee, the working group went round the 12 plants making investigations, drafted a contract and handed it out to solicit comments from the plant and enterprise trade unions. In August, the trade union committee and the Association of the Tea Industry called a meeting to select negotiators from management and workers.
During the negotiations, the wage standard and the rate of pay increase became the main bone of contention. Management proposed 13 yuan per 500g for each temporary green tea picker while the workers argued that this was on the low side. After some tough haggling, both sides settled on 15 yuan per 500g.
When negotiations turned to wages for tea baking workers, considerable differences emerged and the two sides spent some time wrangling over the amount to be paid. In the end, they reached a settlement whereby unskilled workers receive 2,000 yuan, skilled workers 3,000 yuan and salespeople 1,500 yuan a month plus commission.
The wage growth rate was another hard nut to crack. Management felt a growth rate of 5% to 9% would be reasonable, but the workers rejected the offer in the belief that the rate should be adapted to the economic circumstances. Finally it was decided that the monthly wage for tea workers should be 1,500 to 2,000 yuan for the year, an increase of 8% to 10%; those earning more than 2,000 yuan should get no less than 5%.
After three rounds of talks, the two parties reached agreement and a contract was finalized.