The Guardian

Investigation into Sri Lanka's tea pickers

24 May 2023

The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is a global membership organisation that is catalysing long-term, systemic change, to benefit everybody who works in tea – especially people in tea-producing regions.

Yesterday (23 May 2023), The Guardian published its article, “We give our blood so they live comfortably: Sri Lanka’s tea pickers say they go hungry and live in squalor”. The article details its investigation into workers’ pay and living conditions at tea estates in Sri Lanka.

Whilst we do not comment on individual cases, we take allegations such as those highlighted in the article extremely seriously. ETP has a zero-tolerance approach to any abuses of human rights.

ETP will continue to work with any organisation in the sector that is committed to eliminating such abuses from their operations and supply chains. We believe that our members must take responsibility for their supply chain.

Many stakeholders have a role to play to address systemic deep-rooted issues that exist in tea – including companies, governments, unions, civil society, and ETP. We seek to work in partnership with companies who want to ensure their business policy and practices respect workers and protect the environment.

We know that people working in tea often do not earn enough to meet their basic needs, and are unable to afford food, housing, healthcare, or education for themselves and their families. These challenges are rooted in complex, systemic challenges including the low price of tea, rising production costs, and prohibitive business models.

The Institute of Social Development, Kandy, published a report in September 2022, “Living Wage for Tea Workers in Sri Lanka,” but the industry is challenged to understand the impact that the economic crisis has on the conclusions made in this study.

To create a thriving tea industry, we must ensure everyone has a decent livelihood and leads a dignified life – and prioritise enshrining of a living wage and living income for workers and farmers. Our work aims to ensure that everyone working in tea has decent livelihoods; workers earn a living wage; and farmers earn a living income.

We know the challenges are vast and that systemic change will not happen overnight. But we believe that by listening to workers, farmers, and communities and working collectively we can realise our vision of a tea sector that is thriving, socially just, and environmentally sustainable. 


Notes and resources

Our "Living wages in the tea industry" position paper outlines our stance on living wages in tea, detailing the challenges as well as our approach to driving change.

A study on living wage for tea estate workers was conducted by the Institute of Social Development, Kandy.

For more information or interview requests please contact: Brian Lainoff, Head of Communications, Ethical Tea Partnership on