Recent reports disclose the horrific reality behind the Tetley tea empire -- workers on plantations in northern India, including children, are paid less than $3 a day to pick our tea.
They toil from dawn until dusk, often spraying industrial pesticides with little protection, and going back to run-down homes that are open to rain and wind -- their only option. Researchers say that overflowing latrines have created “a network of cesspools” within the living area for employees and their families.
But the massive corporation that owns Tetley, Tata Global Beverages, is refusing to take serious action. Instead, it’s only committed to a weak, 15 year plan to boost the industry’s “sustainability” -- failing to acknowledge how bad conditions really are. We need to speak out and tell Tetley that the plan isn’t good enough, and 15 years is too long.
Tell Tetley parent Tata Global Beverages to comply with labour laws and upgrade the working and living conditions at its plantations now.
The World Bank is launching a full investigation into what it calls the “potentially significant adverse” environmental and social impacts on plantations owned by Tata, an Indian conglomerate that also owns Jaguar Land Rover, operating in more than 80 countries across six continents.
The World Bank’s announcement was followed by the publication earlier this week of a damning report by the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, which visited 17 of the 24 plantations during two years of its own investigation. Senior plantation managers told the researchers not to listen to the workers because they had “low IQs” and were “like cattle.”
These comments reflect the caste system at work on the plantations in Assam. The tea workers come from two marginalized communities -- Adivasis (indigenous people) and Dalits (the so-called “untouchable” caste). They remain trapped in the lowest employment positions on the plantation, where they are routinely treated as social inferiors, even though discrimination against lower castes is illegal in India.
Demand that our tea is free of suffering. Tata, and its subsidiary Tetley, must improve the lives of its workers now.
Together, we've had major success before against big multinational companies exploiting workers. After months of pressure from SumOfUs members, both Australian brand Woolworths and UK chain River Island signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, after the Tazreen and Rana Plaza garment factory collapses -- a huge win for Bangladeshi garment workers. We can take on Tetley.
Abused workers toil for Tetley tea, 12 February, Telegraph
Your Tetley tea won't taste so good after you read this, 13 February, Grist