NEW DELHI, April 17 – Reacting to a report of the Columbia Law School, Tata Tea has clarified that it is concerned about the issues raised by the report and is committed to determining the facts with regard to these allegations, and will recommend necessary actions based on these facts.
The tea major said that it has appointed an independent firm to review the working and living conditions of the tea workers, as well as study the background of the tea industry in Assam. This independent assessment is expected to take a period of around 60 days to complete. After completion of this assessment, Tata Global Beverages intends to announce any action it will take, based on the findings of this report.
“Tata Global Beverages is committed to the fair and ethical treatment, and welfare, of people across our supply chain. Therefore, when a number of serious social issues were alleged in the recent past in relation to Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), a company in which we are a shareholder and a buyer for our brands in India, we were deeply concerned,” the company said.
TGB has appointed legal advisors to verify compliances by independent review. The legal advisors have now appointed and commissioned an independent third party Solidaridad to make an assessment into the living and working conditions of the workers at the APPL plantations, it informed.
Solidaridad’s assessment will address the issues raised to date including, background of the tea industry in Assam, workers’ welfare – including living conditions, facilities and utility provisions, analysis of the health situation in the APPL restructuring of the gardens and employee ownership – including the restructuring process, employee shareholdings, among other issues, said the company.
As reported by this newspaper, the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute study has criticised the functioning of the APPL and Tata Tea, which holds a majority stake in the company, which forced workers to live in inhuman conditions, violating their human rights.
It also questioned the cosy working relationship among Asam Chah Mazdoor Sangh, Assam Government and the tea management, which resulted in the workers getting a raw deal.
Author of the report Peter Rosenblum said that Government of Assam, which is supposed to fix the wages of the workers, does not do so and the wages are fixed by ACMS, which is close to the Congress Party. “Why should there be one union in the gardens,” he asked.
The report said that dividends paid to worker share-holders have been lower than the interest rates available for long-term deposits at any commercial bank in India.