Close to 150,000 employees at over 200 Bangladeshi tea plantations proceeded to strike against low wages on Saturday, August 13, 2022 to demand at least a 150% increase to their pay. The minimum wage for a tea worker in Bangladesh is just 120 taka a day, which equates to $1.25 in U.S. currency.
A woman known as Anjana Bhuyian shared some complaints with the AFP.
“A wage of one day can’t buy a liter of edible oil. How can we then even think about our nutrition, medication, or children’s education?” – Anjana Bhuyian, 50.
Other workers had similar complaints.
Union leaders are requesting the wages be increased to 300 taka a day and have begun a full-scale strike including workers from 232 tea gardens.
“No tea worker will pluck tea leaves or work in the leaf processing plants as long as the authority doesn’t pay heed to our demands,”- Explained Sitaram Bin, a committee member of the Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union to AFP.
Plantation owners have reportedly offered an increase to 14 taka a day and have explained some of their reasoning.
“The cost of production is increasing. Our expenses have increased as the price of gas, fertilizer and diesel have gone up,” – M. Shah Alom, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Association told AFP.
However, researchers have stated that tea workers have been historically exploited by the tea industry.
“Tea workers are like modern-day slaves,” stated Philip Gain, director of the Society for Environment and Human Development.