March 8 – Tata tea workers celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day and their own struggle
Over 1,000 people came to the Nowera Nuddy tea estate on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day 2011. With more than 18 months of struggle to resolve a dispute that started over the right to maternity leave, women on the estate know first- hand the importance of campaigning for their rights in the workplace.
The event was kicked of by an introduction to International Women’s Day and its history – 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of this precious day of celebrating struggle whose roots are in the socialist labour movement. This was followed by traditional songs and dances of the indigenous Adivasi tea community with a film about organizing women workers in a spice factory in rural India.
Women workers and women activists spoke about women’s struggle against discrimination and violence and for dignity and equality. Two women workers spoke about how their campaign and struggle over the last 18 months had given them the confidence to speak out in public and how they have resolved to continue their struggle until their demands are won.
For a short time it looked like the celebrations might not take place: an assistant manager from Amalgamated Plantations (controlled by global tea giant Tata) initially refused to supply electricity but, after vetting the film he finally agreed to switch on the power supply. While the factory, some of the roads and the management bungalows have an unlimited supply of electricity, workers have no access to electricity at all. For a program that would need microphones, workers have to ask the management for access to electricity!
The Nowera Nuddey workers and their union continue to demand:
- Payment of full wages and rations to all workers for the period the plantation was closed from mid-September through mid-December 2009;
- Reinstatement of Sudhir Xalxo and Kishor Toppo, the two workers terminated for their alleged roles in the protest surrounding the mistreatment of the pregnant Mrs. Oraon;
- Withdrawal in writing of the management police complaints which led to the criminal charges against 12 workers;
- A letter of apology and compensation to Mrs Oraon.
Click here for background on the struggle for justice at Nowera Nuddy.