The Bangladesh Tea Association, representative body of all tea estates of the Greater Sylhet and Chittagong, in a statement Tuesday disputed the daily wage figure for tea workers that has gained traction in the media, amid a movement by the workers for a wage hike.
BTA claims an average tea worker's wages and benefits amount to at least Tk 400 per day.
In addition to daily cash wages, direct benefits include overtime, annual leave allowance, festival leave allowance, sick leave allowance, provident fund, work attendance allowance, and administrative allowance, is aggregating almost twice the average daily wage in cash.
Tea workers have not actually contradicted this - their movement this time is aimed at a hike in the cash wages, that they have said is Tk 120 per day.
The estates however would prefer to focus on the benefits. According to BTA, the benefits to the workers are valued at Tk 175 per day to ensure their social development and civic benefits.
In Bangladesh, there are approximately 168 commercial tea production farms employing about 1.5 lakh people. Furthermore, Bangladesh contributes about 3% of global tea production.
According to the statement from 2021, the Bangladeshi tea market is valued at roughly Tk 3,500 crore, and the industry contributes approximately 1 percent to the GDP.
The 168 tea estates in Sylhet and Chittagong are allegedly losing daily tea leaves worth more than Tk 20 crores due to the recent workers' unrest in the peak season of tea production.
To ensure food security, 42.46 kg of rice or wheat ration per month is provided to workers at the rate of Tk 2 per kg through subsidy from the plantation owners.
Moreover, about 94,200 bighas of land has been allocated for agricultural use of the workers with the aim of strengthening the food security of the workers.
The 190-year-old industry complies with Bangladesh labor laws quite strictly. Women workers are getting 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, the BTA points out.
Housing for workers is built on a total of 5,800 bighas of land, with each employee receiving a residence complying with agreed standards.
A total of 891 medical personnel are employed in 2 big size group hospitals and 84 garden hospitals with 721 beds and 155 dispensers to provide workers health protection. Where there is no hospital, local government and private medical practitioners provide regular service.
A total of 768 primary, junior, and high schools have been established to ensure quality education for workers' children, with 44,171 students presently receiving free education from 1,232 teachers.
Besides, comprehensive financial aid is offered to retire employees through allowance, different labor welfare programs such as clean drinking water, anti-malaria medication, hygienic toilets, assistance during religious and cultural festivals and so on.
After the retirement of a tea worker, other members of his/her family will be employed as a tea worker, which is included in a tea worker's contract.
Since 2012, the auction price of tea has increased by 0.16 percent, but tea workers' incomes have increased by 94.2 percent. The tea industry is an import substitution industry with more than 90 percent of the annual production being consumed domestically.
So, any disruption in production will result in imports and the expenditure of scarce dollar resources at this critical time, the BTA statement said.
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