TIB for reasonable pay raise for tea workers

Transparency International Bangladesh urges authorities to refrain from making threats to stop tea workers’ peaceful movement

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has urged the authorities concerned to raise the wage of the tea workers logically through discussion instead of threatening to stop the ongoing peaceful movement across the country.

Tea workers’ daily wage of only Tk120 after working for eight hours and sometimes even more with limited facilities is discriminatory and unconstitutional, the graft watchdog body said in a statement on Tuesday.

Following the strike of the tea workers amid the rise in commodity prices, the proposal to increase their wages by only Tk14 is a violation of their rights, it added.

TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said the ministries concerned should take steps to determine a logical wage acceptable to tea workers through equality-based discussions considering the rights of the tea workers as citizens of the country.

While the workers have been trying to draw the attention of the tea garden authorities through a strike for the past several days, the director general of the labour department recently termed the strike a violation of labour law in a letter, said Iftekharuzzaman.

“It is nothing but an expression of solidarity with the colonial mentality of the tea industry owners, ” he said.

He also said the Minimum Wage Board of the country has set the minimum wage several times higher than other sectors.

“But the Ministry of Labour and Employment recommended maintaining the minimum wage set by the tea garden owners ignoring the guideline of the ministry being influenced by some invisible force. And it needs to be looked into,” he added.

There is a rule of renewing the wage agreement between the tea workers and the garden authorities every two years.

Although in most cases the wages are fixed unilaterally by the garden authorities, the tea workers have been out of the wage agreement for the past 19 months.

In December 2018, TIB released a research report titled “Tea Garden Working Environment and Workers' Rights: Good Governance Challenges and Pathways” where some recommendations were put forward to the government and authorities concerned to improve the tea workers' living standards and fixing the minimum wage compared with other sectors.

The organization thinks that the research and recommendations are still equally relevant as a humanitarian solution to end the ongoing crisis.