Tea Association of Malawi (Taml), a grouping of large tea estates, says it cannot afford to pay its workers the proposed K50 000 monthly minimum wage.
Taml chairperson Sangwani Hara said yesterday during a meeting with Minister of Labour Ken Kandodo in Blantyre that doing so could result in the industry laying off workers and shutting down some operations.
He said even though their stance runs counter to the objective of government to create new jobs, the industry has been faced with low production arising from climate change, poor market prices due to global oversupply and market uncertainties owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Said Hara: “We have managed to move the minimum wage up by 283 percent in four years from K560 per day in 2015 to K1 586 now. We are the highest in the agricultural sector.
“We are aware of the proposal to move up the minimum wage from K35 000 to K50 000 per month. Given the situation I have just explained, the tea industry cannot afford such an increase.”
Hara proposed that sectors such as agriculture, hospitality and tourism and those employing domestic servants and security guards should be allowed to set their own minimum wage.
On his part, Kandodo said discussions to raise the minimum wage are still ongoing.
He said: “We understand the environment is not conducive now and that many businesses are operating on half scale in terms of production and that it is difficult to get inputs.
“This is temporal. Businesses will soon get back to normal once the pandemic is gone: hence, we need to start planning.”
The tea industry, which employs about 60 000 people.