Labour Controls, Unfreedom and Perpetuation of Slavery on a Tea Plantation

Khandakar Shahadat, Shahzad Uddin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines labour controls in traditional tea plantations in Bangladesh. This study finds how social and economic exclusion through discriminatory labour laws and labour–manager relations rooted in the ‘coolie’ system have built a captive workforce separated from the mainstream workforce. This ultimately produces and reproduces slavery–laden labour controls. An opaque but punitive incentive system, sunset-sunrise working hours, maximum engagement, and the restrictions of promotion to managerial posts are constant reminders of the historically rooted indentured labour system. This article contributes to understanding modern slavery in an organisational context and the obstacles that prevent ‘free’ labourers from walking away from exploitative conditions. Organisational sites such as tea plantations present clear examples of how specific types of labour control restrict freedom of choice and produce ‘willing slaves’.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Early online date23 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors received no financial support for the authorship, and/or publication of the article. However, the original research was conducted as part of the PhD study of the first author, funded by the Essex Business School, University of Essex.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Bangladesh
  • labour control
  • slavery
  • tea plantation
  • unfreedom

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