Hindustan Times (Delhi)
Tata Tea project failed to protect Indian staff: WB
NEWDELHI: A World Bank investigation into a tea plantation project in India that it jointly finances with tea giant Tata Global Beverages has found that it failed to tackle alleged abuses of impoverished workers, the group said late on Wednesday.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, said its accountability office began a probe into the project, run by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), following reports that tea pickers were being exploited.
In a statement , the IFC said it welcomed the investigation by the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) and would work towards improving conditions for workers in plantations in India’s Assam state.
APPL said it was currently implementing a project focussed on areas such as housing, sanitation, medical facilities, health and safety and worker engagement, following an independent assessment into conditions its tea estates in June 2014. APPL Foundation was monitoring the project and ensuring that workers benefited from it in the best possible way, it added.
APPL was set up in 2009 to acquire and manage tea plantations previously owned by Tata Global Beverages (TGB) —which owns Tetley, the second-largest tea brand in the world.
“Tata Global Beverages is committed to the fair and ethical treatment of people across its supply chain,” TGB said in an emailed statement.
“As a concerned shareholder TGB continues to support the management of APPL towards improving the conditions of workers,” it added.
The IFC’s $7.8-million involvement in the $87-million project was aimed at creating over 30,000 permanent jobs. But complaints by charities and trade unions about exploitation and abuse of tea-pickers, including long working hours, low wages, lack of freedom of association, over-exposure to pesticides and poor health and living conditions — prompted the CAO to launch an investigation in February 2014.
The CAO’s findings revealed that IFC failed to identify and address labour, social and environmental issues, including potential violations of Indian and global law, including those related to housing and wages.