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28 Mar 2021

Leigh Day

Malawi: Women claim systemic sex abuse on tea plantations owned by British brand suppliers

"Women claim systemic sex abuse on tea plantations owned by British brand suppliers", 28 March 2021

Household tea brands who list Lujeri in Malawi as a supplier on their website include Tetley, Typhoo, Unilever (PG Tips, Lipton), Ringtons, Betty’s and Taylors (Yorkshire Tea). 

The Sunday Times reports that Tetley has temporarily suspended Lujeri supplies pending investigation of the claims. Lujeri is also a major supplier of macadamia nuts, grown in its Malawi orchards.

Lujeri and its UK headquartered parent company, multinational PGI, have been served with a claim issued in the High Court in London for a failure to protect women employees from rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, coercion and discrimination by male workers.

The claims, which are yet to be proven before the court, list 22 instances of sexual harassment, 13 instances of sexual assault, 11 instances of coerced sexual relations and 10 instances of rape. Half of the Claimants were working in the macadamia orchards when their mistreatment happened.

Lujeri says that it works with and is independently audited by the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and Fairtrade. The Rainforest Alliance code requires that workers are treated respectfully and are never subjected to threats, intimidation, sexual abuse or harassment, or verbal, physical or psychological mistreatment. The Fairtrade certification is currently suspended pending further investigation.

... The claim against PGI and Lujeri is being brought in England but will be determined under Malawi law.

... No Defences have yet been served by the companies. PGI has applied to strike out the case against it, while Lujeri argues that the claims should be brought in Malawi rather than England. A hearing to determine both matters will be held in the English High Court on 28, 29 June, 2021.