In Defense of Living Wages for Tea Plantation Workers: Evidence from Assam
Oxfam India has launched its new report “In Defense of Living Wages for Tea Plantation Workers: Evidence from Assam”. The study is jointly done by Oxfam India and Dr. Rahul Suresh Sapkal, Assistant Professor, Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay.
New Delhi, 9 July 2021: Oxfam India is working towards strengthening the labour rights of tea plantations workers. The objective is to ensure that tea plantation workers, especially women, are able to live a life of dignity with their human rights respected by tea companies and their rights protected by the State. Oxfam India is working in seven districts of Assam—Biswanath, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur, Tezpur, Golaghat and Sivasagar.
The research is based on a primary survey carried out with 5,000 tea plantation workers spread across the seven districts during the period of October to December 2020.
The study considers ‘living wage’ in relation to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) concept of ‘decent work’ and ‘quality of life’. A ‘living wage’ is beyond mere survival and should enable meaningful participation in society which includes supporting a family, recreation, and saving against future risks. It considers the well-being of the workers and is a wage that enables a worker to afford a ‘decent’ standard of living for herself and her family. In the Indian context, the concept of Living Wages is enshrined in the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Workmen v. Management of Reptakos Brett & Co. Ltd. 1991 which advocated the concept of and the right to a living wage.
THE MAIN FINDINGS OF THE REPORT ARE AS FOLLOWS:
“The study is the voice of 5,000 tea workers and we believe that the findings will make all stakeholders in tea sector to work for their welfare. The study finds a stark gap between the current wages that tea workers receive vis a vis the living wages that has been calculated. We appeal to the government and tea industry to consider an upward revision of the wages to improve the lives of the tea workers,” says Amitabh Behar, CEO Oxfam India.
It is worthwhile to note here that Assam tea plantation workers daily wage is the lowest with respect to daily wages of tea plantations in Kerala (INR 403), Tamil Nadu (INR 333) and Karnataka (INR 349). An upward revision has been long due. In February 2021, Assam tea plantation worker’s wage was increased by INR 50 but the High Court stayed the order. In Assam, post-elections, the government gave an order to hike the wage by INR 38. So, the current daily wage of plantation worker is INR 204.
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About Oxfam India
Oxfam India is a movement of people working to end discrimination and create a free and just society. We work to ensure that Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and women and girls have safe violence-free lives with freedom to speak their mind, equal opportunities to realize their rights, and a discrimination-free future.
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