Workers on the Nowera Nuddy tea estate in northern West Bengal, India and their Progressive Tea Workers Union (PTWU) are as determined as ever to win justice. A contingent of workers, all PTWU members, travelled the 650 kilometers from their plantation to Kolkata on February 4 to press their demands in a rally outside the Indian headquarters of Tata Global Beverages (TGB).
Tata Global Beverages, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the powerful Tata Group, owns UK-based Tetley (the world’s number 2 tea brand) and controls Amalgamated Plantations, the company which owns Nowera Nuddy. In response to a spontaneous 2009 worker protest over the brutal mistreatment of 8-month pregnant tea plucker Arti Oraon, the estate managers imposed a punishing 3-month shutdown during which the company denied the workers all wages and rations. When work resumed, management lodged criminal charges against 12 worker activists, including Mrs. Oraon; two workers – including Mrs. Oraon’s father, were then dismissed following a sham company “enquiry”.
The Nowera Nuddy workers were joined by over 50 supporters in Kolkata, including representatives from IUF India. Dismissed workers Sudhir Xalxo and Kishor Toppo (Mrs. Orano’s father) were part of the contingent from Nowera Nuddy
The Nowera Nuddy workers headed for Kolkata because they know where the power behind the estate management is located. The rally including the handing over a letter to a TGB representative calling on “Tata Global Beverages to instruct the management of Amalgamated Plantations to engage in genuine negotiations… We will continue to campaign for our rights and for justice. We are more than willing to resolve these problems, but it must be with fairness and proper recognition of our rights.”