Sunday, December 06, 2009

Dear Mr Peter Unsworth, CEO, Tetley Group

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and rations from the period of the lock out which began on September 14, that the suspensions of the 8 workers are withdrawn and management commit to no recriminations against the workers, and that management issue an apology to Mrs Arti Oraon, whose life and that of her child were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.

Yours sincerely,

Diana Saw

Incredibly, Tetley is a proud member of the Ethical Tea Partnership which, according to its website, "aims to improve the lives of tea workers".

This is the background to the protest organised by, the Swiss-based International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association.
"Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose wholly-owned subsidiary Tetley makes the world famous Tetley Teas, has taken 6,500 people hostage through hunger. The hostages are nearly 1,000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal, India. The workers, living in poverty and always on the edge of hunger, are locked out and have been denied wages for all but two days' work since early August.

Management of the plantation, in which Tata holds the largest ownership share and exercises control, is pushing the entire plantation population into starvation 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. They refuse to renounce their right to peacefully protest abusive exploitation - and they need your support."
Read more here.


feddabonn said...

thanks for posting this diana. have passed the info around, and shall send in a letter too.

i have a bit of experience with the tea growing areas of india, and know that many of the large gardens have extremely restrictive labour practices. life is fine for people who are willing to constantly toe the company line, but can be emotionally, socially, financially and sometimes physically disastrous for a labourer who disagrees.

Diana Saw said...

Thanks feddabonn.

"Life is fine for people who are willing to constantly toe the company line, but can be emotionally, socially, financially and sometimes physically disastrous for a labourer who disagrees."

Bar the physically disastrous bit, you just described things at the company I was previously with. It was no tea plantation but a billion dollar media company. At the end of the day, it's the problem with capitalism. I want to write more about capitalism and socialism one day. So many people don't understand that the free-market , capitalist countries they believe they live in actually relies on socialist policies - government assistance and bending the rules for large corporations and industries, for instance. I'd like to see a truly capitalist country.

Happy holidays to you in NZ! May 2010 bring you good things (and more writing)!

Best wishes from me in Cambodia


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