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23 May 2023

Jeevan Ravindran, The Guardian (UK)

"We give our blood so they live comfortably": Sri Lanka's tea pickers say they go hungry and live in squalor

See all tags Allegations

Some of the world’s leading tea manufacturers, including Tetley and Lipton, are examining working conditions on the plantations of its Sri Lankan suppliers, following a Guardian investigation.

Two global trade-certification schemes, Fairtrade and the Rainforest Alliance, are also conducting inquiries after it was revealed that some workers on 10 certified estates could not afford to eat and were living in squalid conditions.

Tea pickers claim that estate owners failed to support them during the country’s unprecedented economic crisis, which has seen prices of food, fuel and medicine soar, without wages rising to match. The pickers reported supervisors refusing to pay them what they were owed and incidences of verbal abuse.

Some of the pickers said they had so little money that they were having to skip meals and felt forced to send their children to work.

Tetley said it had suspended work with some central Sri Lankan estates while it conducted its own inquiries. Ekaterra, which owns Lipton and PG Tips, said it was in contact with the Rainforest Alliance over the findings.

More than 300,000 people work in Sri Lanka’s tea plantations...


Some [workers] have no running water or toilets, and workers say they are forced to defecate in nearby rivers ... One woman said her husband had died after drinking contaminated water.