Bangladesh: Nearly 150,000 workers at 200+ tea plantations strike for pay rise
Nearly 150,000 workers at more than 200 Bangladeshi tea plantations went on strike Saturday to demand a 150 percent rise to their dollar-a-day wages, which researchers say are among the lowest in the world.
The minimum wage for a tea plantation worker in the country is 120 taka a day -- about $1.25 at official rates, but only just over a dollar on the free market.
One worker said that was barely enough to buy food, let alone other necessities.
“Nowadays we can’t even afford coarse rice for our family with this amount,” said Anjana Bhuyian, 50.
Unions are demanding an increase to 300 taka a day, with inflation rising and the currency depreciating, and said that workers in the country’s 232 tea gardens began a full-scale strike on Saturday, after four days of two-hour stoppages.
“No tea worker will pluck tea leaves or work in the leaf processing plants as long as the authority doesn’t pay heed to our demands,” Sitaram Bin, a committee member of the Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union, told AFP.
Plantation owners have offered an increase of 14 taka a day, after an 18-taka rise last year and M. Shah Alom, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Association, said operators were “going through difficult times with profit declining in recent times.”
“The cost of production is increasing. Our expenses have increased as the price of gas, fertilizer and diesel have gone up,” he told AFP.
Researchers say tea workers -- who live in some of the country's most remote areas -- have been systematically exploited by the industry for decades.