Tuesday, December 01, 2009
SUPPORT WEST BENGAL TEA WORKERS:
The following story and appeal comes from the international union federation the IUF. First of all their introduction.
On November 19, local government officials began distributing to workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy tea estate in West Bengal coupons for emergency rations which are normally reserved only for those officially designated as below the poverty line or victims of natural disasters. The desperate situation on the estate contrasts sharply with Tetley's commitments to refrain from harsh or inhumane treatment set out in the Ethical Tea Partnership standard. Hunger on the estate is the result of a policy of collective punishment. Nowera Nuddy is majority owned by Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose wholly-owned subsidiary Tetley makes the world famous Tetley Teas. The workers have been denied wages and rations for all but two days' work since early August. Management has closed the estate in retaliation for a worker protest in August against the punishing treatment of an 8-months' pregnant worker who was denied maternity leave, forced to pluck tea, and then denied adequate medical treatment. Workers want the estate reopened and their wages paid, but reject the suspension of 8 workers who have been singled out for protesting vile abuses. http://www.iuf.org/den6346
Click here to send a message to Tetley/Tata
And here, also from the IUF, is the full story.
At Tetley we want you to enjoy your pregnancy without it being stressful:
"At Tetley we want you to enjoy your pregnancy without it being stressful. That's why we've put together some tips on caffeine and pregnancy. "
UK-based teamaker Tetley is a wholly owned subsidiary of India's Tata Group. Tata, the powerful Indian conglomerate, holds a 49.98% ownership stake in Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, with whom it shares share the same office in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. Nearly 1,000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Amalgamated Plantations-owned Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal are desperately hungry. They have not been paid for all but 2 days work since August. They are being collectively punished for having protested the abusive treatment of Mrs Arti Oraon, a 22 year-old tea garden worker who was denied maternity leave and forced to continue work as a tea plucker despite being nearly 8 months pregnant.
Tetley is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). According to the ETP website, "The fundamental principles of the ETP standard are those of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code which is closely based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions."
The extended punitive closure of Nowera Nuddy is a catalogue of violations of ILO Conventions. On the issue of maternity protection, for example:
"Pregnant or breastfeeding women are not obliged to perform work which has been determined by the competent authority to be prejudicial to the health of the mother or the child."
Article 3, C183 Maternity Protection Convention
The government of India in 1961 adopted a Maternity Benefits Act stipulating that "No pregnant women shall, on a request being made by her in this behalf, be required by her employer to do during the period specified in sub-section (4) any work which is of an arduous nature or which involves long hours of standing, or which in any way is likely to interfere with her pregnancy or the normal development of the foetus, or is likely to cause her miscarriage or otherwise to adversely affect her health."
The specified time period is "one months immediately preceding the period of six weeks, before the date of her expected delivery;"
The perfect cuppa
The IUF has conducted extensive interviews with workers on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate which we will be publishing regularly. One woman worker had this to say:
Arti was asking for leave for several days, but the doctor kept refusing. The doctor threatened Arti when she went to ask for leave.
She went one Monday to ask for leave; she was refused. She went the next Monday; she was again refused. The doctor said: `Are you the doctor or am I the doctor? Don’t I know when you should go on leave?’
So she had to go to work. The section was very far. If we are even a little late, we are sent back and not allowed to work.
That day it was very hot and the sun was very strong. Even a healthy person would have felt ill. And she was in such a condition that she fainted. She was perspiring profusely. She muttered that she was not able to work and fell on the ground.
Another worker told us this:
Our sister has been asking for maternity leave since she was 7 months pregnant. But she was not granted leave. `Work and earn today', `Work and earn tomorrow.' `Work and earn this week, next week.' This is how days just went by. She was angry and just went to work. That day, it was not even 9 am, she fainted and fell down. She mother was called and she came. She was fanned and taken care of. I did not go as i was working quite far away. When we went to weigh the leaves, I saw she was lying on the ground. I asked what had happened. They told me what had happened. The workers asked that a vehicle be sent. They said that there was no vehicle available and that the ambulance was out of order. If the ambulance can be given on hire for other things, it can be used to carry a patient. The ambulance was not made available and the workers were told that she should be got on a bicycle. Can you get a pregnant woman on a cycle? Can you get a patient on a cycle? We insisted that an ambulance had to be sent. They ultimately sent a tractor. We said: `how can you take her in a tractor?' But we realized that her condition is serious and she needs immediate medical help. The sections number 2 and 3, male workers were working. We told them that we need to talk to the doctor immediately. It was our duty to do so. It is our duty to go together. It is not an individual's issue. Because the doctor has systematically neglected all of us workers. And we went there. We asked the doctor: why do you not grant leave?
For daring to protest, these workers have been denied all wages and rations since early August. You can support their struggle – CLICK HERE to tell Tata and Tetley Tea to stop starving workers now! You can also use the features provided on the Tetley Tea website to send the company a message, or use the freephone number provided to give them a call!
Please go to one of the links above or to THIS LINK to send the following message to Tetley and Tata Tea management.
To Mr Peter Unsworth,
CEO, Tetley Group
Mr. Ratan N Tata, Chairman, Tata Tea Ltd
Mr Percy T. Siganporia, Managing Director, Tata Tea Ltd
Since November 19, local government officials have been distributing emergency ration coupons to workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy estate. Tetley Tea claims adherence to the standard of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which stipulates that there be no harsh or inhumane treatment of tea estate workers. The government has recognized that the workers are hungry, the result of a policy of collective punishment deliberately inflicted to force these workers to renounce their human rights. I urge you to act to ensure that the estate is immediately reopened, that workers are paid their annual festival bonus and the back wages and rations from the period of the lock out which began on September 14, that the suspensions of the 8 workers are withdrawn and management commit to no recriminations against the workers, and that management issue an apology to Mrs Arti Oraon, whose life and that of her child were put at risk by management brutality. These are the demands of the Nowera Nuddy Estate (Tata Tea) Workers’ Action Committee, and I fully support them.