Ethical Tea - simplicitea

By: SIMPLICITEA  22/11/2011


ETHICAL TEA PARTNERSHIP A hot steamy cup of tea: where would we be without it? A refresher, a break, an icebreaker, a warmer, a pick-me-up and a calm-you-down. And the choices nowadays, all manner of blends, colours and scents. Yes, it's easy to see why tea is a national institution. Now look again at that humble cup. Spare a thought for the journey of tea. OK, we know it doesn't just pop up in the supermarket like magic. Tea goes through a long process to reach our stores. A long process involving people. The workers in the tea industry are folk we can easily forget while watching bright, funny adverts on TV about tea. Tea pickers live in developing countries where they can be vulnerable to exploitation. Multi-national and local companies, not subject to the labour laws we take as sacrosanct in the West, can take advantage. Tea is a global business making vast profits. Yet plantation workers in Kenya and India can make as little as one penny per box of tea. In countries with no social service or free health care, workers are dependent on their employers in ways westerners are not. Even though governments such as India pass laws to protect these workers, there is little enforcement. Tea workers often live in unsanitary housing, with no education for their children. Out in the bushes they brush against tea-dust, pesticides and insecticides but are not provided with protective gear. Consequently, many face industrial-related illnesses. In Kenya labourers are entitled to benefits after three months of service. So those clever big shots in the office routinely dismiss then rehire to sneak around this safeguard. To sum up, tea workers can face shocking working conditions while the tea industry reaps millions of dollars. The Ethical Tea Partnership is an alliance of companies from large, well-known brands to the small privately owned. ETP was formed twelve years ago with the aim of reforming the tea industry. The radical difference in the ETP approach is that it brings together companies who are normally in competition with each other. Through the ETP, rather than competing on who has the best ethics, companies work together to ensure progress. The ETP is active in tea-producing countries in South America, Africa and Asia, Plantations signed up to the agreement allow the ETP to monitor their practice. The ETP checks wages, benefits, health and safety, working hours, child and casual labour. It fights against slavery, discrimination and inhumane conditions. It supports water and soil conservation. The ETP provides certification that companies are following the principles set out in the Ethical Trading Initiative, the worldwide code of good employment practice. If the estate fails to fix these problems the ETP suspends the certificate and no company signed up to the agreement can buy from that estate. Secondly the ETP collaborates with development agencies to improve the lives of tea workers. This can be anything from supplying clean drinking water in India to organising training for workers in China.

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