Published: 09/08/2010

Solidarity actions were held in Australia and the UK last week to protest the ongoing denial of rights at the Tata Group-controlled Nowera Nuddy tea plantation in West Bengal, India (click here for background story).

On August 4th, the IUF-affiliated National Union of Workers (NUW) held a peaceful demonstration in Melbourne, outside Tetley (Australia).  Through Tata Global Beverages (formerly Tata Tea), the Tata Group controls the Tetley brand, one of the highest selling tea brands in the world.  Officers from the NUW informed staff at the Tetley office that the company could no longer continue to dissociate itself from the actions of the management at Nowera Nuddy.

Handing over a letter from the union to Tetley management, NUW Industrial Officer Susie Allison commented, “The continued support and acceptance of tea from a company that mistreats workers is a damning reflection on Tata and Tetley.”  Tea from Tata’s plantations in India makes its way into Tetley tea.

In London, on August 5th, representatives from the IUF-affiliated UNITE, the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), War on Want and IUF Asia/Pacific handed out leaflets and protested in front of the London Crowne Plaza St James and Taj Residences.

These properties are owned by the Tata Group and are located in one of the most expensive parts of London. One night at Tata’s London Crowne Plaza is £230, the equivalent of around 10 months’ wages for a tea worker at Nowera Nuddy.

A joint letter from IUF General secretary Ron Oswald and Ruth Tanner, War on Want Executive Director was was handed over to a hotel representative. It pointed out that the actions of the garden management in West Bengal were now having global ramifications for Tata’s reputation and brand.

Theresa Mackay, UNITE’s south-east region equality officer and IUF Agriculture Board Vice President noted, “Tata has to understand that the treatment of tea plantation workers cannot be hidden. The appalling mistreatment of Arti Oraon, who was denied legally entitled maternity leave, and has been ludicrously charged with criminal acts is unbelievable.

“Tata claims it is an ethical company, but there is nothing ethical about forcing pregnant women to do hard labour and criminalizing workers for simply standing up for their basic rights.”