Strike cripples tea estates

Fulfil demands of workers

Published : 18 Aug 2022 08:45 PM

Demanding daily wages to Tk 300 from Tk120, the tea estate workers across the country continued their indefinite strike till Thursday. Therefore, the strikes crippled country’s tea industry for the tenth consecutive day during this peak season.

Over 100,000 people are working in 167 tea gardens across the country including 92 of Moulvibazar and Sylhet, many of whom lead miserable life due to economic hardship. They warned that the movement would continue until their demand is met.

On Tuesday, a second round of meeting was held at Srimangal between the protesting workers’ leaders and labour division to end the strike. According to the decision of the previous meeting, the tea garden owners’ side and the tea workers union held another discussion at the Dhaka office of the labour department on Wednesday. But the meetings have failed to bring any solution to this end.

On August 9, the Bangladesh Tea Workers Union started two-hour work abstention a day demanding daily wage hike. Workers demanded an increase to Tk300 a day, with inflation rising and the currency depreciating and they started a full-scale strike on August 17, after four days of two-hour work abstention. 

Considering the sky rocketing

 price hike of everything, the owners must 

fulfill the workers’ logical demand

Since then tea industries remain inoperative. So, the tea leave brought earlier to the factories for processing, are now rotting while collection of tea leaves from the garden during plucking season remain suspended.

The owners claim that they are incurring a loss of Taka 16 crore in every day in the last 10 days. The workers have been demanding to raise their wages for long but either the owners or the government has not responded to their call. They repeatedly asked the government to ensure an end to discrimination and harassment of the tea workers and increase the wage.

In Sylhet alone, as many as 74 per cent of tea garden workers live below the poverty line, according to a survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the Unicef released in 2021. As prices of essentials are increasing, the workers are saying they would not be able to survive without a substantial wage hike.

Although two agreements on increasing wages were signed, the fate of tea workers in the country has not changed yet.  As production season is going on, all stakeholders including both owners and workers will have to reach a consensus on this issue immediately to save this vital sector. 

Otherwise, both owners and workers will suffer in the future. Considering the sky rocketing price hike of everything, the owners must fulfill the workers’ logical demand.