Should Tetley Put More In The Pot?
Tea Workers Wages Cause Slavery, Claim Campaigners
Paid poverty wages and vulnerable to traffickers – Assam’s tea-plantation children are tricked and sold into slavery by parents too poor to keep them. Anti-slavery campaigners are blaming unfairly low wages, which puts brands like Tetley into the spotlight. Could your morning cuppa be supporting child slavery? Is it Tetley’s responsibility to ensure their tea is ethically sourced and pickers fairly paid, or is it a problem for the Assam government?
News of the enslavement and trafficking of children, which anti-slavery campaigners claim is a consequence of low wages for tea workers, have recently caused problems for the UK’s biggest Tea brand Tetley. Although Tetley claims that the tea plant investigated by the Guardian newspaper does not supply the UK with Tetley Tea, its parent company Tata Beverages does have a stake in the plantation.
Tetley also claims that tea-pickers wages are set by the plantation owners, local government and unions. The low wages paid by tea companies often mean that it is members of the lowest caste or social class in society that work for tea plantations. Many young people see the ‘jobs’ offered by traffickers as the only way out of a system that holds them back both financially and socially, with seemingly no way out of extreme poverty. Modern day slave traders and traffickers deliberately target tea plantations for these reasons.
And then there is child abuse. Some children end up in domestic slavery, where they may be beaten and sexually abused by their owners. Others end up as sex slaves in brothels, and some are trafficked thousands of miles, even ending up in the UK. For every child that is rescued from ‘domestic service’ – 126,321 in 2011-2012, many more are simply never seen again. Lacking the resources to search for them, many parents never find out where their children went or what happened to them.
The plantation owners that supply Tetley tea justify their extremely low wages by claiming that workers also receive benefits such as maternity pay and free tea. But critics claim that these benefits do not make up for paying about half the wage necessary to keep the average person from poverty.
Tetley is the largest tea company in the UK, and its parent company Tata Beverages is the second largest supplier of tea in the world.