People power

6,000 female Indian tea workers win fight against multinational

A tea garden worker plucks tea leaves in India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A group of 6000 semi-literate women who worked as tea pickers for the Indian multinational Tata in the state of Kerala successfully protested their horrible working and living conditions by challenging the male-dominated trade unions. The women live in one-bed huts with no toilets or basic amenities and earn 230 rupees ($3.50) for a day’s work — about half of what a daily wage labourer in their state typically earns — so when the company in early September decided their bonuses would be cut as well, the women decided to protest. That meant challenging not only the company but also the trade unions, whose male leaders they felt did not represent their interests, instead conspiring with company management to strengthen their own positions and deny the women their entitlements. The women organized without help of the unions, blocking off one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations and effectively bringing trade and tourism to a standstill. After nine days of protests and negotiations, the plantation company finally gave in and brought back the bonus — forcing male union leaders to sign a deal the women had negotiated. While they continue to be challenged by the trade unions, the women have vowed to not give up and continue their campaign for higher wages.

Read the full story at the BBC.

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