The workers on tea plantations in Sri Lanka are doing backbreaking work, living in tight quarters, getting paid next to nothing and now, being forced to work during a pandemic with almost no protection. They are also almost all women. The industry has been rife with human rights abuses for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp relief just how bad things are because of the ways the pandemic is making them worse.
Sign on to demand Sri Lanka protects their tea farm workers right now!
Sri Lanka, like nearly every country in the world, has some social distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. But it seems that, for some reason, those guidelines don't apply to the people working long hours in the hot sun picking tea leaves. Some farms have given the workers fabric masks while others have actually taken the price of the masks out of the workers' paychecks. Still other employers have provided nothing. Due to the heat, workers are touching their faces all day to wipe away sweat, yet there is nowhere for them to wash their hands with soap during their shifts. Even worse, in some cases, the workers are making less than 10 cents per day. The upper end of the earning scale is only about 2 USD.
Their living conditions are even worse: tiny packed quarters overcrowded with multiple people, including children, and usually shared restrooms. This is exactly the kind of environment where a virus can spread like wildfire. Because of the nationwide curfew, in the evenings, all these workers are stuck in these tiny living spaces the entire time, and rates of domestic abuse have reportedly gone way up.
To compound the already horrible human rights abuses happening, Sri Lanka is also using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down free speech. Officials have given police the authority to arrest anyone who is critical of the government on social media or elsewhere. This means it's even harder to get an accurate picture from the outside of how bad things truly are getting for these people.These are innocent women and children and they need your voice, as theirs have been totally silenced. Please sign the petition to put pressure on Sri Lanka to protect these workers right now!