Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Trouble brews as Bangladesh is hit by tea workers' strike
Workers are thought to receive world's lowest wages
Tea workers are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in Bangladesh.
- ucanews.com reporter, Sylhet
- May 22, 2013
Around 100,000 tea workers in northeastern Bangladesh went on strike yesterday in a bid to pressure estate owners to double their wages, which rank among the lowest in the world.
The workers, from more than 150 tea estates in Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Habiganj districts, are also demanding the government establish schools for their children, as well as bolstering housing and land rights for workers. Daily wages for workers on the three tea estates are currently set at US $0.70.
“We placed the same demands back in September 2011 but the owners didn’t pay heed to us,” said Ram Bhajan Kairi, secretary of the Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union, which called for the strike. “They didn’t even sit down and talk with the workers, so we have been compelled to go on strike."
Local media in Bangladesh has reported that government officials and owners have been meeting with labor leaders twice since Tuesday, but have failed to reach agreement.
Bangladesh’s tea workers are mostly landless tribespeople brought in from various Indian states after the British set up the first tea gardens in the 1850s. They are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups, living in small, unsanitary mud-roofed houses where they are allowed stay as long as a family member is working.
A registered worker’s family gets only three kg of rationed rice and flour per week, and minimal medical care.
“I’m the only bread winner and it’s really tough to maintain my six-member family with little income,” said Asha Arnal, 35, a mother of four. “Nowadays, the price of daily essentials has increased so much that we can barely have a full square meal a day.”
She added that workers will struggle to survive without a wage hike.
Tea was once a major export of Bangladesh, but rapid population growth has led to a dramatic increase in domestic consumption. Of a total annual production of 50 million kg, only six million are exported.
Education and vocational training among tea workers is discouraged by plantation owners, who fear that workers will leave their jobs for better paid work.
Plantation owners have reacted strongly to the strike. “Workers have called for strike in a time when tealeaf picking season is set begin. It is hampering productivity and [causing] financial loss for tea estates,” said Shamsul Islam, manager of Patrokhola Tea Estate in Moulvibazar district. “If workers’ demands are met, owners will count huge losses and a financial crisis.”