Female tea plucker (Sri Lanka)

Fair treatment of workers

In Sri Lanka estate structures are influenced by history, and as a result  the relationship between management and workers is often strained, especially during wage negotiations.

Generating solutions

As part of a joint EU-funded project ETP and CARE International established Community Development Forums (CDFs) on 13 ETP-monitored estates. CDFs are ‘mini parliaments’ that bring workers, management, trade union officials and village representatives together to discuss socio-economic issues, working conditions and the well being of the estate in general. The project has taken special effort to ensure that women have an active role in CDFs and decision-making.

Training programmes, better working conditions, practical improvements, and new and improved estate facilities have all been coordinated through CDFs:

  • Promoting equal opportunities (gender equality training)
  • Negotiating skills training
  • Work related training (improved plucking techniques) leading to better incomes
  • Household budget management
  • Access to community saving schemes
  • Provision of crèches
  • Improved medical facilities

Improvements to working conditions and life on tea estates

One of the main benefits of CDFs is that workers and management actively engage with each other in a positive way and this has led to far fewer conflicts. This was especially apparent during wage negotiations. While estates without CDFs reported ‘go-slow’ strikes and cases of violence and damage to estate property, those with CDFs reported no such incidences and continued operating at normal levels. Other benefits include:

  • New career opportunities for women
  • Increased worker morale and dignity
  • Improved productivity
  • Programmes tackling alcoholism
  • Better relationships between Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups