Tripartite cooperation and commitment can promote decent work in the tea plantation sector in Bangladesh

Indigenous and tribal women face discrimination and inequality based on both gender and ethnicity; discrimination against them occurs within and beyond their own communities. In the tea plantation sector, 64 % of the workers are women. The ILO-SIDA partnership project is a timely response to an explicit request from the tripartite national constituents, and builds on work already being done in Bangladesh.

News | 04 November 2018
Women tea plantation labourer waiting for their hand-picked tea leaves to be weighted in a tea garden

DHAKA (ILO News) - ‘As per the latest provision, a tea garden worker doing the stipulated work from sunrise to sunset gets the daily wage of BDT102 (USD 1.22) which is much lower than that of Indian tea garden workers. Other benefits received by tea workers is also scanty’ said Rambhajan Kairi, General Secretary, Bangladesh Cha Shromik Union in a workshop on promoting decent work in the tea plantation sector in Bangladesh on 30 October 2018.

ILO Country Director for Bangladesh speaking at the workshop
The workshop was jointly organized by ILO’s Sweden Government funded project ‘Capacity of constituents strengthened to prevent unacceptable forms of work among women and indigenous workers in target sector’ and Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS) at Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golf, Sreemangal, Moulvibazar.

The workshop was organized with a purpose to seek cooperation and commitment from the tripartite constituents particularly Bangladesh Tea Workers Union, Bangladesh Tea Association and Ministry of Labour & Employment to contribute for achieving the decent work agenda in the tea plantation sector through implementing the biennium collective agreement 2017-2018, promoting the freedom of association, collective bargaining and sound industrial relations.

Alexius Chicham, National Project Coordinator, Indigenous and Tribal People project, ILO presented a key note paper highlighting the tea workers miserable life and living conditions as they are one of the least paid labourers in the country. Increased wages and facilities can improve the life of workers, which will eventually raise their productivity and benefit the tea industry. Bangladesh Tea Workers Union and Bangladesh Tea Association have the prime responsibility to promoting decent work in the tea industry.

Makhan Lal Karmaker, President of Bangladesh Tea Workers Union, said tea garden workers of Bangladesh are not able to consume food with sufficient nutrition. So how the tea workers will be reached by 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We strongly urge the Bangladesh Tea Association and its members for fully implement the collective agreement 2017-2018 and start measures for the next round discussion.

Bangladesh Tea Association (BTA) is always cordial and maintain positive attitudes towards the tea workers for solving any sorts of disputes in the garden. The collective biennium agreement 2017-2018 is the result of the successful social dialogue between Bangladesh Tea Association and Bangladesh Tea Workers Union. The members of BTA are very committed to implement the collective agreement points accordingly, said Mr. Tahsin Ahmed Choudhury, Committee Member of BTA as special guest.

When workers and employers failed to come consensus for agreement then the government has to intervene in the process of social dialogue."

Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Country Office for Bangladesh
Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director of ILO Country Office for Bangladesh said that collective agreement between Bangladesh Tea Workers Union and Bangladesh Tea Association is the result of successful social dialogue which is based on both of the parties’ good faith. Such process should be continued for future collective agreement and any such agreement should not be below the standard of Bangladesh Labour Law. When workers and employers failed to come consensus for agreement then the government has to intervene in the process of social dialogue. Mr. Poutiainen also said that Bangladesh is the party of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples ILO Convention No. 107. Bangladesh government should take measures for protecting the human rights of indigenous peoples. So that no one left behind in education, health, employment and other sectors during the implementation of SDGs by the Bangladesh government.

Speaking as the Chief Guest, Md. Nurul Amin said that women tea workers are really suffer from malnutrition which affects their children and work life in the garden. He laid emphasis on increasing the wages of tea workers and providing education to their children.
Among the participants Md. Tofael Islam, Deputy Commissioner & District Magistrate, Moulvibazar district, Ms. Sakeun Nahar Begum, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment and Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, President, Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS) addressed the workshop.