Tea brands including PG Tips, Tetley, Yorkshire Tea and Twinings have vowed to improve the tea estates they buy from in India after a BBC investigation found “dangerous and degrading” working conditions.
According to BBC News today, in a report by Justin Rowlatt and Jane Deith, the joint investigation by Radio 4’s File on Four and the British news channel found tea workers in Assam, north-east India, living in broken houses with hardly any sanitation or working toilets, and sometimes cesspools overflowing into houses.
The workers were also reportedly earning wages so low – around 115 rupees a day (just over £1, when the minimum wage in Assam is 177 rupees) – that families were found to be malnourished and susceptible to illness. They were also alleged to be spraying chemicals without proper protective clothing; and in some cases, using child labour.
One of the estates in question is owned by giant tea producer, McLeod Russel, which supplies tea to the companies PG Tips, Liptons, Tetley and Twinings. Unilever owns PG Tips and Liptons, and has said it takes the allegations seriously and will continue to work to “raise standards”.
The producer admitted to the BBC that there is “a huge backlog of repairs”, and that conditions were “not acceptable”. Other estates implicated include Doomur Dulling, owned by the Assam Company.
The Indian Tea Association has also condemned the conditions, and said that decent housing and sanitation should form part of a tea worker’s pay, although the Assam Company has called the BBC’s findings “baseless and false”.
Harrods, which also stocks tea from the affected estates, has removed Doomur Dulling tea from its shelves in response to the BBC findings, while Taylors of Harrogate said it was “investigating as a matter of urgency”.
The rise of the tea shop >>
Time to talk about tea >>