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    Bangladesh Tea Workers Get a Pittance After 18-Day Strike

    AgricultureAgri-businessBangladesh Tea Workers Get a Pittance After 18-Day Strike
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    Bangladesh Tea Workers Get a Pittance After 18-Day Strike

    The tea workers had thrust the ball in the court of prime minister Sheikh Hasina – but the settlement comes for a pittance. The wages have been increased by a mere 50 Bangladeshi Takas, from 120 to 170 Bangladeshi Takas.

    Bangladesh’s tea-workers resumed work after agitating for a hike in their wages for 18 days. The workers were demanding a daily wage of Taka 300 in place of the current Taka 120 per day.

    Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina brokered an agreement between the workers and the Tea Garden Owners Association. Management representatives from 13 tea-gardens were present at the meeting. The tea workers of 167 tea plantations were represented by leaders of the Bangladesh Tea Workers Union.

    The tea workers had thrust the ball in the court of prime minister Sheikh Hasina – but the settlement comes for a pittance. The wages have been increased by a mere 50 Bangladeshi Takas, from 120 to 170 Bangladeshi Takas.

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    The newly settled wages ensure that Bangladesh’s tea workers will continue to live well below the international extreme poverty line of $1.90 a day. (170 Bangladeshi Taka translates to USD 1.79.)

    Workers are unhappy with the meagre increase in wages. The anger is palpable and they are expressing dissatisfaction, though their union leaders have accepted the decision. The tea workers say that the unions have let them down and accuse the leaders of a sell-out. Some of the union workers are associated with the ruling party, the Awami League.

    The tea garden owners’ association argued that they were providing tea workers with other benefits as well like housing. The tea garden owners’ association is powerful and is many association members have connections with the Awami League party as well.

    Poverty

    Labour researchers have documented the lives of tea garden workers and the tales are a litany of hunger.

    A 2016 ILO study says that tea-estate workers are among the lowest paid workers plagued by illiteracy, lack of medical facilities among other problems. More than 64 percent of the tea-workers are female.

    The tea garden owners said that the workers get annual leave allowance, festival leave with pay, sick leave, plucking bonus along with their daily wages. The workers say that these are exceptions. Some say that they have not got a paid leave in their lifetimes. Tea-garden owners argue that, on an average, the workers were getting approximately Taka 500 per day as wages – an amount that the workers vehemently deny ever having received.

    The Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus said that employer’s contribution to provident fund and annual festival allowance as per the attendance in work will also increase proportionally.

    Bangladesh employs more than 1.5 lakh workers spread over the 167 plantations in MoulviBazar and Sylhet districts. Commercial tea cultivation in the region was started in 1854 by the British who brought workers from Orissa, Assam, Bihar and from other part of India to work in the plantations. Most of the workers belong to the Dalit Hindu communities.

     

    Image: Wikimedia

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