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22 Aug 2022

Syful Islam, Nikkei Asia

Bangladesh tea strike spotlights poorest workers' inflation plight

20 August 2022

Despite briefly agreeing to go back to work, tea workers across Bangladesh continued to protest over the weekend, underscoring growing frustration over meager wages amid accelerating inflation.

Workers from over 160 tea plantations across the nation are demanding a raise to the equivalent of $3 per day, from $1.20, which makes them the country's lowest-paid workforce.

They secured a much more modest increase, to about $1.50, along with a promise from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's office that she would hear their plight. At one point on the weekend, the workers said they would return to the fields for the time being, ahead of an expected meeting between their representatives and the prime minister in the coming weeks.

However, the tea labor leader backtracked on accepting the offer, and the workers are again insisting they will not return until their $3 demand is granted.

On Sunday, they blocked the Dhaka-Sylhet highway, halting movement of vehicles.


There are 100,000 permanent tea workers and 50,000 more temporary laborers in 167 tea plantations in Bangladesh. They support some 500,000 dependents. But even the $1.20 a day was not guaranteed: If they collect less than 23 kilograms of leaves, they get paid less.

The Bangladesh Tea Association (BTA), a body of landowners, said in a statement that the workers earn the equivalent of $4 a day, including benefits such as free housing, 3.5 kg of wheat rations per week and access to medical care.


The workers argued the medical facilities mentioned by the BTA are poor and inadequate, while the housing amounts to shanties that they are expected to pay for.