Tripartite workshop for promoting decent work in the tea plantation sector in Bangladesh

International Labour Organization (ILO) and Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS) jointly organized a Tripartite Workshop for promoting decent work in the tea plantation sector in Bangladesh on 30th October 2018 at Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golf, Sreemangal, Moulvibazar. Around 100 participants attended the workshop whose came from different tea gardens of Moulvibazar district including different background such as tea workers, representatives of tea labour union, development activities etc. The aim of the workshop was to promote decent work in the tea plantation sector in Bangladesh. To establish decent work in the tea plantation, how the tripartite groups can play the great role, was the main purpose of the workshop. The tripartite, the representatives of government, the representative of Employers, Bangladesh Tea Association and the tea workers/members of Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union attended there to make the workshop meaningful.

At the tripartite workshop, Md. Nurul Amin, Secretary, Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs was the chief guest. Mr. Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Country Office for Bangladesh, Ms. Sakeun Nahar Begum, ndc, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Md. Tofael Islma, Deputy Commissioner & District Magistrate, Moulvibazar, Mr. Tahsin Ahmed Choudhury, Committee Member and Convenor- Labour Health and Welfare, Sub-Committee, Bangladesh Tea Association and Mr. Makhan Lal Karmakar, President, Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union (BCSU) spoke as special guests. Key Note papers were presented by Mr. Ram Bhajan Kairi, General Secretary, BCSU and Mr. Alexius Chicham, National Project Coordinator, ILO. Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, IPDS’s President chaired the programme.

Participants at the workshop shared experiences and opinions from their perspective to implement the decent work amongst tea workers. The initiative of ILO and IPDS was encouraged in the discussion. The government offices, NGO’s officers, the private sectors and development partners, community leaders, women, journalists from digital and print media were present at the workshop.

The chief guest, Md. Nurul Amin said we drink tea every day with pleasure but we feel unsatisfactory when we could know the poor condition of health and wages of tea workers. He added, current wages of tea workers is BDT 102 which is too poor compared to other job’s wages of the country, that’s why we need to sit together to consider increasing the wages of tea workers. He said if the three parties (Government, Employers and Workers) sit together to discuss the problematic issues of tea estate area aim to build decent work in the tea plantation sector, it would be possible to bring out the positive decision.

He added, now Bangladesh government is working for ensuring the facilities of marginalized peoples. Government is working for the education through mother languages of hilly people. The Government is establishing primary schools in every tea garden, especially where are no schools yet now. He said the government does not expect anyone to live behind.

 The ILO Country Director for Bangladesh, Mr. Tuomo Poutiainen said tripartite negotiation is a good strength to bring labourer’s benefits. It is responsibilities to the government, tea associations and tea workers to continue the positive negotiations. He expected government’s interfere if any point of the agreement is yet to implement. The government should solve the problems using the Bangladesh Labour Act, he added.

He also added Bangladesh is a country that ratified ILO convention No. 107 and many international conventions. The conventions told to ensure the security, human rights and cultural rights of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.

Ms. Sakeun Nahar Begum said the Ministry of Labour and Employment is implementing the goal No. 8 under Sustainable development Goals 2030, which is Decent Work and Economic Growth. To establish decent work is in the vision of this ministry. To ensure the suitable wages for the workers, safe working environment, rights to express worker’s opinions, to arrange enough training for workers are included with the decent work. She said tea was our second exporting product in Bangladesh in previous times but we lost our position. We need to increase our tea productions and to stop importing tea from foreign countries.

“We have considered the provident fund issues for workers in the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 that was amended 2013 and 2018” she added. She is satisfied to know that there is not so much child labour in tea plantation sector.

She urged to access the information of Ministry of Labour and Employment to know the safety and management rules. She informed the ministry provides much information on gratuity or compensation relating worker’s death, accidents, sickness, maternity funds etc.

The representative of employer’s party, Mr. Tahsin Ahmed Choudhury, Bangladesh Tea Association said Tea is the oldest industry in Bangladesh. The Country produces 80-82 million KGs of tea every year. Tea sector plays a significant role in the country’s economy. Tea estate employed 120,000 numbers of workers in permanent and temporary based where 50% workers among them are women.

He informed the wages and benefits of tea workers are determined after the negotiations between Bangladesh Tea Association and Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union since 1954. The present wages BDT 102 for a worker per day come out from the bilateral signed between the two parties. The wages have increased to 20% of the wages from 2016 to 2017. One worker gets BDT 714 per week including a weekly holiday. He said the tea workers enjoy free houses facilities. There are 61,266 free houses for 120,000 tea workers in tea garden areas.

He said the workers enjoy 13 days annual leaves with full payments according to Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (2013 ament.) He said the workers enjoy 14 days festival leaves with full payments compared to 11 days festival leaves of Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (2013 ament.) They also enjoy 20 days sick leaves as well.

He said the employee pays BDT 4,590 for tea worker as a festival bonus each year. The employee also provides supports for religious temples, recreational facilities, sports tools etc.

A tea worker needs to pluck 20-22 KGs per day of tea leaves against BDT 102, he added. If a tea worker plucks 30-35 KGs additional tealeaves they have BDT 111-130 per day for additional plucking. The dependents members of the tea worker’s can help the workers to pluck the additional tea leaves.

Mr. Tahsin said we provide the leaves the workers according to Labour Act. If the Labour Act provides more leaves for them we will ensure the leaves practically because we are respectful to government’s acts.

Now we do not import tea from foreign countries, that’s why, the tea market is good, he added. He said we have some challenges. The tea plantation is impacted due to global warming. The temperature remained 1-3 degree Celsius higher than the reasonable one in some seasons in the last 3 years. As a result, many kinds of insects attack the tea leaves.

Mr. Makhan Lal Karmakar provided the information about water scarcity and unemployment problems of tea estate communities in Moulvibvazar. He requested governments and NGOs to establish a vocational training institutes/facilities for the tea estate communities

In his concluding speech, Mr. Sanjeeb Drong said we were all positive on the workshop’s issues. We think, we have started a good introduction with tripartite. We want to create a society where no one leaves behind. He said the government should reserve quota in public job sectors for tea estate communities because these communities are in backward section historically. They have rights to live with full self-determination and full esteem.


From the open discussion, the following recommendations are raised in the workshop:

  • It is not enough the wages only BDT 102 for a worker per day, it is needed to increase. Other ways the points of the agreements between employees and tea workers is not implemented properly in many tea gardens.
  • It is needed to have a wages board for tea workers and proper implementation of the agreement; Most of the times, the accepted agreements between Bangladesh Tea Association and tea workers are not properly (100%) followed in tea garden area;
  • There is a discrimination of wages rate of tea worker from one garden to another garden; It is needed to stop the wages discrimination and need to apply the same wages for all tea workers;
  • To establish the land rights and rights to houses for tea workers;
  • To reserve the special quota in all public job sectors and public universities for the marginalized tea estate communities;
  • To stop the drug business in the tea garden areas;
  • To ensure suitable accommodation for the tea worker’s families. The present space of the single house is not suitable for tea worker’s families. Up to 10-12 members of a family live in this congested house;
  • To stop drugs shops in tea garden area; most of the outsiders come to take drugs here and make noises;
  • There is a high drop out rate of tea estate children from schools during/after class x due to facing many problems. To arrange vocational training in tea garden area is a must for the youths;
  • To establish government primary schools in all tea gardens; to improve the facilities of the education centers in tea gardens as well.
  • To establish suitable job sectors for the unemployed youths and dependents workers of the tea gardens;
  • To provides free access opportunities in tea gardens for NGOs who are interested to do development activities for the livelihoods of the tea workers;
  • The populations of tea estate communities are increasing but the area of gardens is not increased, so need to take special measure for the extra peoples;
  • Education rate is increased everywhere but it is low rate in tea garden area;
  • To establish and develop the Day care center and health care center in tea garden area is needed urgently;
  • The people of tea garden area are facing water scarcity and sanitation facilities. It is urgently needed to increase those facilities for tea state communities;
  • Need to establish the recreation centers in the tea garden areas.

Mr. Pankaj Kondo, Vice-president, Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union, Pankaj Ghosh, representative of IDEA, Mintu Deswara, local correspondent, The Daily Star, Bipul Chakraborty, Ekushe TV, Bijoy Hazra, Valley president, Sreemangal BCSU, Poresh, GS, BCSU valley, Apon Bannarjee etc. participated in the open discussion of the workshop.

In his welcome speech, Mr. Ram Bhajan Kairi, General Secretary, BCSU said the first commercial-scale tea garden in Bangladesh was established in 1854. During that time, the Indian government brought the poor people from many places of Indian Sub-continent. After the migration, the poor and simple people faced many tortures and exploitation in these areas.

He said there are now around 5 lacs populations are living with this tea plantation. They are tea workers, tea business persons, dependent members of tea plantation etc. Our area is like a small sub-continent now where the daily demands of local peoples are increasing day by day. The numbers of unemployed persons also increased here. However, we have the possibility as well due to good future in tea plantation. He demanded to stop importing tea from foreign countries to save the tea industry in Bangladesh. He expressed his feeling that the country does not go forward to leave behind the tea estate communities.

He claimed against some articles of Bangladesh Labour Act which are against their rights. He identified articles 115 of the act, which said 10 days casual leaves are allowed per year for each worker but this article is not applicable for tea workers, which discriminated the tea workers. He suggested amending the discriminated law. He also identified article No. 117 of Labour Act, which said if a worker works for 18 days at a time, then he/she can enjoy 1-day leave but discriminately a tea worker needs to work 22 days to enjoy those 1-day leave.

He suggested amending the articles 32 of Labour Act if they have no need to leave their historical places even after finishing their working term as a tea labour.  He recommended establishing the rights to house/accommodation of a tea worker in their territory. He requested to stop permanently any eviction of tea worker’s families from their lands.

 Mr. Ram Bhajan Kairi supported to continue the bilateral negotiation between employers and workers. He claimed that the workers follow the agreement properly done by bilateral negotiation but there is no strong commitment to employers to follow the agreement properly. As a result, we have seen the lack of implementation of our agreement in many tea gardens. He requested to take active measure to implement the agreement properly.

It takes more time to implement the agreement, is another problem he shared. He requested to arrange bilateral negotiation 1 or 2 days per week instead of 1 day per month. He suggested increasing the wages of tea labour.

Tea garden labourers are among those who are usually excluded from a number of government services with a view that they should be cared for by tea garden authorities. The tea garden authorities have the responsibility to ensure housing, safe water, sanitation, medical and educational facilities for the tea garden labourers and their families but Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union (BCSU) opined that these are insufficient to them.

 Mr. Alexius Chicham, National Project Coordinator, ILO said in his key note paper the Decent Work concept was formulated by the ILO’s constituents – governments and employers and workers – as a means to identify the Organization’s major priorities. Putting the Decent Work Agenda into practice is achieved through the implementation of the ILO’s four strategic objectives (creating jobs, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection and promoting social dialogue), with gender equality as a crosscutting objective.



He also added, Bangladesh is the tenth tea producing and ninth tea exporting country in the world. Today there are 164 tea gardens in Bangladesh located in seven districts. A total of 1, 22,000 tea workers with 500,000 population in the tea gardens. In a hugely Bengali-majority country of more than 160 million people, the tea communities constitute a small minority. Importantly, they are among the excluded-socially and economically-and discriminated against, for their identity, captive situation, and various other reasons.

He informed, according to preliminary biennium collective agreement the new daily wage is BDT. 102 (USD 1.22) for a fixed nirikh (quota to qualify for full wage) except other benefits for a day’s work from sunrise to sunset, which is much lower than that of the Indian tea garden workers. Tea garden workers of Bangladesh lead a poor life due to their low income and they are not able to consume sufficient food and nutrition. In addition, workers have a poor literacy rate. While Bangladesh has made commendable progress in all aspects of Sustainable Development Goals between 1992 to 2016, for example reduced poverty from 70.2% to 23.12, increased primary school enrolment from 60.5% to 100%, child mortality reduced from 146 to 48, maternal mortality reduced from 5.74 to 1.43 per thousand live birth (Planning Commission, 2015), gross disparity still exists in tea garden areas.

The ILO study shows that social dialogue between BCSU, Bangladesh Tea Association (BTA) and the government are functional. External support to workers and their organization may assist them in becoming capable of attaining the power of collective bargaining as envisaged in the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). Furthermore, the ILO is dedicated to the creation of opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity through its Decent Work Country Program. It is important to give special attention to gender aspects since women workers are more vulnerable than male workers in the tea industry.

The ILO study report also shows that about 63% of respondents stated about their health and safety was at risk because of their work. They identified multiple reasons including having no shelter close to the workplace, no safety kits, no toilet facility, long working hours in a harsh environment, risk of snake bites and poisonous chemicals.

Building on the results of the previous project under the Sida-ILO Partnership Programme, the current project ‘Capacity of constituents strengthened to prevent unacceptable forms of work among women and indigenous and tea workers in target sectors’ for 2018-2019 period. The Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs provides advisory and policy guidance for this project as the focal ministry.

Mr. Alexius said, the project promotes decent work in the tea sector in Bangladesh through bringing together Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union, Bangladesh Tea Association and government for social dialogue. The project will support the Bangladesh Tea Plantations Workers Union and the Bangladesh Tea Association to exercise their consultation process and implementing successfully the agreement points. The ILO will support the parties in overcoming remaining obstacles and, once concluded, the focus will shift on dissemination, awareness raising and training on available rights and benefits, as well as compliance monitoring by the Union, the responsible government units and the employers.

Mr. Alexius provided the following way forward of the tripartite workshop:

  • Commitment from the constituents for full implementation of preliminary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) 2017-2018 by end of the year
  • Initiate social dialogue/consultation process between Bangladesh Cha Shramik Union, Bangladesh Tea Association and government for the next biennium 2019-2020
  • Increase more social safety net programmes by the government and Bangladesh Tea Association
  • Actions for improving the occupational health and safety in the work place
  • Increase coverage of capacity building and awareness raising initiatives by the Labour Department
  • Extend and strengthen the applications of international labour standards that ratified by Bangladesh government
  • Targeting tea plantation communities in all development initiatives so that by 2030 ‘No one leave behind’ and reach tea workers and indigenous and tribal peoples who are furthest behind.




Jointly organized by

International Labour Organization and IPDS

30th October 2018 Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golf, Sreemangal