Underpaid, deprived, discriminated against
Tea workers continue to face difficulties due to low wages and lack of available facilities, said tea worker leaders and rights activists at a dialogue session yesterday.
They said the current minimum wage for workers is Tk 102 per day and they constantly face discrimination in areas such as housing, healthcare and education.
Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS) organised the programme at The Daily Star Centre.
Referring to a study done by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), its Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said, “Although tea workers get different facilities, including housing, from tea garden owners, they are not enough.”
“Their monthly salary and living expenses amount to Tk 5,231, which is very low compared to other sectors,” he said.
He also said tea workers are contributing to the country’s GDP and therefore should be provided with more facilities.
Iftekharuzzaman urged tea garden owners to be more attentive to the needs of their workers.
Presenting a keynote paper, Dhaka University Associate Professor Dr Zobaida Nasreen said, “Maternity benefits are neglected in the tea gardens. During pregnancy, there is no available facility for check-ups or arrangement of special allowance.”
Even during the pregnancy period, they are bound to do heavy work, she said, adding that there is a lack of sanitation facility at the area, and there is no women supervisor to look after these issues.
Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union General Secretary Rambhajan Koiri said the labour law of 2005 is “discriminatory” towards tea workers as there are many provisions that exclude them.
“For example, Section 115 of Bangladesh Labour Law 2005 allows workers from all sectors to receive 10 days of casual leave but it excludes tea workers from this provision,” he said.
Lawmaker Aroma Dutta said government should properly monitor the gardens regularly so that no tea worker faces discrimination.
National Human Rights Commission’s member Kamal Uddin Ahmed said, “The tea industry is doing quite well as Bangladesh exports large amounts of tea, but the picture is different when we turn towards the workers.”
Rahmat Ullah, dean of Dhaka University’s law faculty, and Sanjeeb Drong, president of IPDS, also spoke among others.