Tetley Australia Pty Ltd
16 Yarra Street
SOUTH YARRA VIC 3141
Fax (03) 9827 9011
Dear Mr. Farrell
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been informed by the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) of the situation at the Nowera Nuddy tea estate in West Bengal, India, where close to 1,000 workers and their families have been deprived of wages and rations for all but two days for almost four months following the closure of the garden.
We have been informed that the local government administration has started distributing coupons for emergency rations in the garden, which are usually reserved for victims of natural disasters or those below India’s official poverty line. The situation is the direct result of the actions of management at the plantation whom are seeking to collectively punish workers.
The ACTU, representing 2 million workers and their families, is expressing its grave concern over the issue to you and your company because the plantation in India is owned by Amalgamated Plantations, a company owned by Tata Tea, which is of course the company that owns Tetley.
It is noteworthy that Tetley markets its products under the “Ethical Tea” label, yet the treatment of workers at Nowera Nuddy is anything but ethical. These workers have effectively been presented an ultimatum: give up their right to protest or face starvation.
The IUF has also informed the ACTU that it has extensive evidence demonstrating that the conditions in the Nowera Nuddy tea estate do not comply with many aspects of the Ethical Tea Partnership Standard.
Unfortunately, to date, Tata Tea and Tetley UK have seen fit to deem this issue a “public relations” problem and have responded to the IUF with statements delivered via a PR firm in India.
This sets an extremely low commitment to the issue of workers’ fundamental rights, which are under threat in this case.
The IUF, based on multiple witness statements given by workers at Nowera Nuddy, has issued a comprehensive public refutation of the allegations presented in the PR firm’s version of events. This refutation is available on the IUF website: www.iuf.org.
We should also note, that in communications to the IUF from the PR firm, it has been denied that the tea from the Nowera Nuddy plantation enters Tetley tea bags. We understand tea from other tea gardens owned by Amalgamated Plantations does enter Tetley’s products.
We would also note this statement, under your signature, to the National Packaging Covenant: “Tetley GB and Tata Tea have established a joint venture manufacturing company, Tata Tetley, located in Kochi, India. This fully accredited facility accounts for the primary supply of products to the Australian market.”
The key issue that concerns the ACTU, is not whether tea from the Nowera Nuddy estate makes its way into Tetley products, but the question of ownership and treatment of workers in companies directly related to Tetley through Tata Tea’s corporate structure.
Australian workers and consumers will be highly dubious of a company which markets its product under an “ethical” standard, but then denies the application of that standard to other parts of the company. If this is to be Tetley’s position, then the reality of the “ethical” standard appears meaningless.
We urge you to take this issue up with Tata Tea, to encourage direct negotiations with the representatives of the workers’ Action Committee who have issued a set of fair and legitimate demands (including opening the garden and paying their wages and rations).
This issue, if left unresolved without proper respect for the Nowera Nuddy workers’ demands and their rights, will not only harm Tetley’s brand and image in Australia, but everywhere Tetley operates.