Tata Tea-Union nexus scams tea garden workers?

Guwahati (ASSAM): Have big tea companies bought off the unions and given a raw deal to the humble workers?

The cup that cheers has brought bad news for tea major Tata Tea, as a  report on the tea industry in Assam exposes a cosy relationship among the union representing the tea workers, the management and the Assam Government, which has left the workers with a raw deal.

The report – ‘The More Things Change…. the World Bank, Tata and Enduring Abuses on India’s Tea Plantations’, prepared by Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, is an embarrassment  for Tata Tea, which has been accused of human rights violations, denying the workers their welfare facilities. The report was released at a function on Wednesday at the Press Club of India in Delhi.

The report blames the  Assam Government  of turning a blind eye to the workers’ plight and exploitation at the hands of the tea management. The World Bank has already launched its own investigation into the affair through its ombudsman.

The report  holds the  Asom Chah Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS)  guilty of meting out a raw deal to the tea workers. Accusing ACMS of running a monopoly with a little help of the tea management and Assam Government, the report has questioned why no other union is allowed to operate in the tea gardens other than ACMS. The system of wage fixation by the tripartite committee comprising ACMS, representatives of management and State Government has been criticized.

Based on three years of hard research, the report authored by Peter Rosenblum and Ashwini Sukthankar, points to the complicity of the management with the union and State Government and a conspiracy of sorts on the part of Tata Tea, which tied up with World Bank to form a new company Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) to form a worker-management entity, but has not done enough to benefit them.

In 2005  the Tata group decided to divest from plantation operation in Assam and West Bengal and focus on the ‘’most profitable aspect of their tea business: branding and retail. The group  took USD 7.8 million loan from the World Bank through its private investment arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) to finance the disinvestment and creation of the new company APPL. The World Bank bought 20 per cent stake, while the Tata Tea held 40 per cent shares and controlling rights of the new venture.

The Tatas proposed large-scale sale of shares to its 31,000 permanent workers. In turn, Tata committed itself to the development agenda of the World Bank, promising empowerment of workers, creation of new jobs and meeting high standards of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

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Posted by on April 17, 2014. Filed under Assam,Breaking News,Industry. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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