You may have heard of what is being called the "Tea Maid Trade." Men and women operating as "recruiters" prey on young girls living on tea plantations in Assam, India. Thousands of girls have reportedly ended up trapped as domestic slaves in middle class homes in Delhi.
So how do these girls become trapped?
- Tata Global Beverages (owner of Tetley Tea) is the biggest shareholder of a company called Amalgamated Plantations (APPL) which manages tea plantations in Assam.
- Several years ago, a program was initiated that aimed to make tea plantation workers part owners in Amalgamated Plantations. In exchange for a portion of their already small wages, they would get shares in the company. Sounds good, right? Sadly, scores of workers report they were coerced to buy shares in APPL and remain confused about the details.
- The minimum wage on the tea plantations in Assam is industry-wide and set by a tripartite agreement, but reports indicate workers are paid 94 rupees ($1.54 USD) a day, a little more than half the legal wage for an unskilled worker in Assam. There is a price for keeping wages so low, and it is paid by the workers who cannot afford to keep their daughters. The traffickers come knocking, offering to take the girls away, promising good wages and a new life--they find it hard to say "no."
- Because of the poverty in Assam, trafficking girls is an attractive business for locals. Investigative reports indicate people in Delhi have bought girls for as little as 4,000 rupees ($65 USD).
- Publish the Tata Global Beverages Code of Conduct. Make public a code of conduct that ensures zero tolerance for modern slavery, including measures for effective remediation when modern slavery is found.
- Ensure plantation workers are paid a full cash living wage and are able to opt out of investment schemes, across all plantations. Pay should be backdated accordingly.
- Establish an independent grievance mechanism to enable workers to report violation of their rights, both individually and collectively, as verification that the code is being implemented.