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India: Supreme Court orders payment of wages and benefits owed tea workers for 15 years

In response to legal action by the IUF together with the affiliated Estates’ Staff Union of South India (ESUSI) and other unions, the Supreme Court of India has ordered the governments of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to make interim payment of long standing wage and benefit arrears to tea workers within 60 days.

The arrears have been pending since tea plantation owners began abandoning the estates over 15 years ago without paying workers their wages, retirement and other benefits, affecting over 300,000 workers and their families and leading to widespread hunger and malnutrition. .

In 2010, the Supreme Court directed the central government to exercise its obligations under the Tea Act to take over the abandoned plantations and recover the arrears. Failure to comply with the ruling led the unions to file a contempt petition in 2011.

“It is historical and opens a new path to the workers in India when the employers fail to pay dues for longer period. The respective state governments have to pay to workers and recover these amounts from the employers”, John Selveraj Regional Secretary ESUSI

The Supreme Court also summoned the implicated plantation owners to be present for the next hearing.

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