European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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28 October 2010

India: union report slams violation of tea plantation workers’ rights

In early October, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) published the findings of research done after the deaths of three tea plantation workers in the northeast Indian state of Assam.

The union’s fact-finding report entitled In Cold Blood: Death by Poison, Death by Bullets condemns the working conditions and violations of human and labour rights of workers on a tea plantation owned by the Indian conglomerate Tata, which markets the well-known Tetley brand of tea. The union carried out its investigation after 25-year-old worker Gopal Tanti dropped dead on 28 May this year while spraying the crops with pesticide. His death sparked a spontaneous protest by workers, which was immediately put down by the police in a crackdown in which two others workers were shot dead.

Looking at health and safety at work issues, IUF researchers found a complete absence of risk prevention measures. The workers whose job is to spray toxic chemicals on plantations have neither protective masks, gloves nor clothing. When Gopal Tanti fell unconscious, he was wearing only shorts, a t-shirt and rubber sandals. The investigation found that the victim had been spraying pesticides for 8 to 12 hours a day for 75 days straight. According to the young man’s father, at no time had the employer supplied him with protective equipment. The report also found that when Gopal Tanti collapsed, his supervisor prevented his workmates from coming to his aid. It was not until an hour later that a manager came to inquire about the victim’s health, by which time he was already dead.

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