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Fair Trade

Dear Visitor,

We are happy to announce the launch of our new web site at www.teatemptations.com.

You can click the image (right) or you will automatically be re-directed in 30 seconds.

Any questions please email us or call us
Tel: (812) 375 - 1937.

Lalith Guy Paranavitana
President

 

The tea industry is Sri Lanka was started by the British Planters nearly 150 years ago. The British pioneer planters were a law unto themselves, but were also benevolent owner / operators because their success depended on the work force. During these times there were no organized unions to protect the rights of workers, but the planters had a fairly decent system in place, governed by the Planters Association. Workers lived on the estate and were provided housing, water service, medical facilities, child care and even an elementary school for their children. Food was distributed through a store on the estate. The workers were pretty much dependent on the estate management and vice versa. In about the early '40s trade unions started recruiting estate workers and formed several estate worker's trade unions. Initially the British tea companies opposed them, but the laws in the country were such that they were compelled to recognize them. The unions grew very strong and there was much agitation and clashes with management over several major issues like wages, living conditions etc.

After the British government gave independence to Ceylon (as it was called then), organized labor became more powerful and clashed with management frequently. The estates were at this time managed by agency houses who appointed Superintendents to live on the estate and manage it for them, who in turn were responsible to the owners in the UK. Like all organized labor unions, they fought for worker rights and minimum wages etc and the labor laws were becoming more and more stringent against management.

Today, some of these union representatives are elected members of parliament and provincial councils. Wages are set by the government. Workers have to be guaranteed 5 days work per week and have to be guaranteed 8 hours work a day. Unlike in the US where hourly paid workers can be sent home if there is insufficient work, in Sri Lanka any person who reports for work in the morning has to be given a full days work or paid full wages in lieu!!! Disciplinary action and / or termination of services of estate workers is contested by the unions at Labor Tribunals which come under the purview of the Department of Labor. A worker who is dismissed from employment cannot be evicted from the house that he/she is living in on the estate!!! This is the law!!! In a sense, estate management is crippled as a result of such stringent labor regulations. Unlike here in the US where the laws are pro management, in Sri Lanka they are pro labor. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is still a third world country whereas countries like Singapore which were economically behind Sri Lanka in the '50 and '60s are well ahead today and on par with any western country.

I was a Tea Planter in Sri Lanka from 1970 - 1987 and then a Director of one of the largest tea corporations in Sri Lanka till 1989 when I immigrated to the US (please check out 'about us' on this web site). I was trained by a British tea company called George Stuart & Co. which, like all other privately owned tea companies was nationalized in 1973. Thereafter I was absorbed into the State Plantations Corporation, became a Superintendent in 1977 and a Director in 1987. I visit SL every year and visit estates and meet with tea management companies (tea estates were de nationalized in 1994 and sold back to the private sector). Therefore I have walked the walk and have all the credentials and experience to talk the talk!

Let me assure you that tea estate workers rights are better upheld in Sri Lanka than a comparable worker in the USA!!! As such when people talk about fair trade, they should put everything in perspective and not merely go by a label. According to the facts as described above, every single estate in Sri Lanka (about 650) qualifies for fair trade certification!!!

Lalith Guy Paranavitana
 


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