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Negotiated settlement ends long, bitter Tata/Tetley tea plantation dispute

18 May 2011 News
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A settlement has been reached in the long-running dispute between workers and Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL).at the company's Nowera Nuddy tea garden in northern West Bengal, India. APPL is majority-owned  by Tata Global Beverages, part of India's Tata Group.

The settlement is a result of 3 sets of direct negotiations over several weeks between APPL and the IUF India office.

The dispute began in August 2009 when workers spontaneously protested the abusive treatment of a pregnant tea worker, Ms Arti Oraon, by the garden hospital doctor (background here). In response, management imposed two lockouts, the second of which lasted 3 months.

The settlement provides for:

  • mutual withdrawal of the criminal cases filed by both workers and management;
  • payments to all workers employed at the time of the second lockout;
  • family members of the two dismissed workers to be offered permanent jobs and the two dismissed workers to be given compensation;
  • management to make a cash payment to Ms Oraon's child as a gesture of goodwill;
  • a joint union-management meeting to be held at the estate to establish procedures and mechanisms for resolving grievances and raising awareness on maternity benefits and protection.

The precise amounts of compensation for the lockout and for the dismissed workers are to be negotiated by the local union, the PTWU. The full agreement is to be implemented within two weeks of signing. The Nowera Nuddy unit of the PTWU will cease all actions on the estate stemming from these pending issues arising from the lockout.

IUF Asia/Pacific regional secretary Ma Wei Pin noting that the settlement is the first of its kind in the Indian tea sector, described it as "Recognition that management in the tea sector needs to abandon its feudal approach and move to real industrial relations, sitting across the table with workers and their unions to negotiate."

IUF General secretary Ron Oswald paid tribute to the tenacity and spirit of struggle of the Nowera Nuddy workers in this long-running dispute and on behalf of the union thanks the IUF affiliates who supported this long-running campaign with various support actions and the many individuals who responded to appeals by sending messages to the company.