Knowledge is power

In the first initiative of its kind, THIRST has created this knowledge hub in order to bring together all of the valuable resources regarding the treatment of workers in the tea industry that are scattered all over the internet. We’re always trying to expand our knowledge hub. If you know of, or have created, any other relevant resources that should be included in this collection please contact us.


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A Bitter Cup

Report
Date of publication:
2010
Published by:
War on Want
Geography:
India
,
Kenya
Topic:
Health
,
Housing
,
Nutrition
,
Wages
,
Water and Sanitation
The tea industry is a booming global business. With 3.5 million tons of tea produced each year – including 1.6 million tons for export – tea harvesting is an important source of income for millions of workers across the globe. India and Kenya are two of the world’s top four tea-producing nations, earning hundreds of millions of pounds in exports each year. But in spite of the massive revenues tea sales generate, workers who pick and pack the leaves face horrendous conditions and earn far below a living wage. This report is a contribution to War on Want’s ongoing campaign for corporate accountability and Unite the Union’s campaign for the fair treatment of all workers employed by businesses in supermarkets’ supply chains. The report exposes the poverty wages, poor working conditions and desperate insecurity of workers in Kenya and India who produce the tea sold in British supermarkets. Shockingly, these conditions have not improved since War on Want’s groundbreaking report into the tea sector in Sri Lanka almost 40 years ago.

A Comparative Study of the Tea Sector in Kenya A Case Study of Large Scale Tea Estates

Report
Date of publication:
2008
Published by:
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Geography:
Kenya
Topic:
Housing
,
Wages
,
Women
This research study is based on two Multinational Corporations (MNCs) – Unilever Tea and James Finlays – and their operations in Kericho. Generally the study aimed to assess the working conditions and terms of service for workers in the low cadre of employment at the tea estates. The study also aimed to investigate the CSR initiatives of the 2 MNCs.

A Different Cup of Tea: The Business Case for Empowering Workers in the Sri Lankan Tea Sector

Report
Date of publication:
2013
Published by:
Care International
Geography:
Sri Lanka
Topic:
Women
Twenty-three tea estates partnering with CARE International Sri Lanka have successfully implemented Community Development Forums, which are ‘mini-parliaments’ that facilitate dialogue between workers, management and the broader community. The model opens up new channels of communication between stakeholders across the plantation region, serving as a forum where collective decisions about community development priorities and labour conditions are negotiated and decided in a transparent way. An independent assessment by the New Economics Foundation showed that that there was a 1:26 return on investment for estates, plus additional gains for workers and the community.

A life without dignity: the price of your cup of tea

Report
Date of publication:
2016
Published by:
Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition
Geography:
India
Topic:
Nutrition
As one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of tea, India’s tea industry employs more than 1,2 million people. Two regions, Assam and West Bengal, together produce over 70% of India’s tea and are also home to the worst working conditions for tea plantation workers in the country. This report is the outcome of a fact finding mission conducted in the aforementioned regions on behalf of the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition (GNRTFN). It investigates and analyses allegations of serious abuses of human rights on India’s tea plantations, in particular how poor working conditions undermine the human right to food and nutrition and related rights.

A Matter of Life and Death: Surviving Childbirth on Assam’s tea plantations

Report
Date of publication:
2018
Published by:
Nazdeek
Geography:
India
,
South Asia
Topic:
Health
,
Women
Adivasi (indigenous) women in Assam, northeast India face multiple barriers to combating anemia and accessing adequate maternal health care, according to a report released by Nazdeek. Various government interventions meant to combat anemia are insufficient and unsuccessful in reaching the women they are intended to serve. The report sheds lights on the multiple gaps in the implementation of government health interventions meant to decrease anemia and maternal mortality on tea plantations in Assam – where the majority of tea workers are Adivasi. These women face multiple layers of oppression and exploitation, and are unable to realize their right to safe motherhood.

A Study Report on Working Conditions of Tea Plantation Workers in Bangladesh

Report
Date of publication:
2016
Published by:
ILO
Geography:
Bangladesh
Topic:
Child Labour
,
Discrimination (not gender)
,
Forced Labour
,
Freedom of Association
,
Health
,
Housing
,
Nutrition
,
Wages
,
Water and Sanitation
,
Women
While Bangladesh has made commendable progress in all aspects of millennium development goals between 1992 to 2015, for example reduced extreme poverty from 70.2% to 35.1%, increased primary school enrolment from 60.5% to 100%, child mortality reduced from 146 to 48, maternal mortality reduced from 5.74 to 1.43 per thousand live birth (Planning Commission, 2015), gross disparity still exists in tea garden areas. Tea garden labourers are among those who are usually excluded from a number of government services with a view that they should be cared for by tea garden authorities. The tea garden authorities have the responsibility to ensure housing, safe water, sanitation, medical and educational facilities for the tea garden labourers and their families but these are not practiced fully by the authorities.

A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

Books
Date of publication:
2017
Published by:
Erika Rappaport - Princeton University Press
Geography:
Worldwide
Topic:
Rappaport delves into how Europeans adopted, appropriated, and altered Chinese tea culture to build a widespread demand for tea in Britain and other global markets and a plantation-based economy in South Asia and Africa. Tea was among the earliest colonial industries in which merchants, planters, promoters, and retailers used imperial resources to pay for global advertising and political lobbying. The commercial model that tea inspired still exists and is vital for understanding how politics and publicity influence the international economy.

A Time for Tea: Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation

Books
Date of publication:
2001
Published by:
Piya Chatterjee - Duke University Press
Geography:
India
,
W Bengal - Darjeeling
Topic:
Women
In this creative, ethnographic, and historical critique of labor practices on an Indian plantation, Piya Chatterjee provides a sophisticated examination of the production, consumption, and circulation of tea. A Time for Tea reveals how the female tea-pluckers seen in advertisements—picturesque women in mist-shrouded fields—came to symbolize the heart of colonialism in India. Chatterjee exposes how this image has distracted from terrible working conditions, low wages, and coercive labor practices enforced by the patronage system.

Addressing the Human Cost of Assam Tea

Report
Date of publication:
2019
Published by:
Oxfam
Geography:
Assam
,
India
Topic:
Casualisation
,
Discrimination (not gender)
,
Forced Labour
,
Freedom of Association
,
Health
,
Housing
,
Nutrition
,
Wages
,
Water and Sanitation
,
Women
Addressing the Human Cost of Assam Tea: An Agenda for Change to protect, respect and fulfil human rights on Assam tea plantations. For every kilogram of packaged Assam tea that is sold, tea brands and supermarkets take a sizable cut – up to 95% in some cases – while a marginal proportion – less than 5% ‒ remains on tea estates to pay workers. These inequalities in how the share of the end consumer price of tea is distributed contribute to poverty and suffering for the women and men on Assam tea estates, while driving a sustainability crisis for the wider tea industry in parts of India. Women bear the heaviest burden of systemic inequality, as they are concentrated in the lowest paid plucking roles and also shoulder most of the unpaid domestic care work. Meanwhile, plantation owners claim that laws making them responsible for housing, healthcare and education of workers and their dependents are challenging to implement – and therefore not effectively executed. Oxfam’s new research shows that the solutions lie in a fairer sharing of the end consumer price of tea, stronger gender policies and a review of plantation labour laws to ensure that women and men in Assam can lead dignified lives.

Brewing Misery: Conditions of Working Families in Tea Plantations in West Bengal and Kerala

Report
Date of publication:
2015
Published by:
Centre for Workers' Management
Geography:
India
,
Kerala
,
W Bengal - Darjeeling
,
W Bengal - Dooars & Terrai
Topic:
Child Labour
,
Education
,
Wages
Child labour in many forms and guises is again back among the tea garden workers. It was inevitable, given the low wages in tea (lowest in any organised industry, lower than even the agricultural minimum wage) and the thin line that most workers have to walk on between starvation and survival. Of course, there is a view that poverty is not the cause of child labour but the reverse is true. Child labour deprives generations of children of the education that can make them and their families climb out of poverty and the need for labouring at an early age. The present study shows the hard to climb language barrier in the tea garden educational system and the abject poverty that provides the etiology of child labour in the tea gardens. The present report seems to be a serious totalising effort to understand and change the predicament of the tea worker. This totalisation may be superseded, but will definitely remain a landmark. Young trade union activists, workers and intellectuals, worked on this report with diligence, sobriety and commitment. That is a sign of hope for the proletarian movement in India. I would like to recommend it to be used as a handbook by activists and all who are interested in the tea industry.
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