WEB DESK: A movement of 6,000 women stood against Tata, India’s global giant, for exploitation of labor rights and won the case.
The women are tea pickers from the beautiful south Indian state of Kerala. They work for a huge plantation company, Kanan Devan Hills Plantations, which is part-owned and largely controlled by the Indian multinational, Tata.
Part of the women’s complaint is that they live in one-bed huts without toilets and other basic amenities and, while they earn significantly more than the tea workers in Assam, they say the 230 rupees (£2.3; $3.50) they are paid for a day’s work is half what a daily wage labourer in Kerala would get.
Women worker say that male trade union leaders are in cahoots with the company management and intentionally hampers women their entitlement as they save plum jobs for themselves.
They also say that the trade unions haven’t done enough to stop their men from drinking away their earnings without regard for their children’s education or the medical needs of their families.
The women protested on several occasions with slogans directed squarely at the union leaders. “We pick the tea and carry the bags on our shoulders, you carry off the money bags,” read one. “We live in tin sheds, you enjoy bungalows,” said another.
At first the plantation company was insolent but, after nine days of protest and marathon negotiations overseen by the chief minister of the state, it gave in
The issue of the pay rise was to be negotiated separately and, when the women’s demand for an increase in wages wasn’t met, the unions launched an indefinite campaign to raise rates from 232 rupees to 500 rupees a day.