Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) on Friday concluded wage negotiations with Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union (Pawu) which is expected to improve conditions of service and take-home pay for estate workers.
The first-ever collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the representative group of large tea estates and tea estate workers was signed on Saturday at Taml offices in Blantyre, which also houses the Limbe Tea Auction, along Kidney Crescent in Blantyre.
Taml chairperson Sangwani Hara said in an interview the new wages, which are much higher than is currently the case, will be announced today in the spirit of CBA, which covered wages and conditions of employment in the tea industry—the largest formal labour employer after government.
Reads a joint communiqué on the signing of CBA: “This is the first ever CBA agreement between Taml and Pawu. The process started in 2009 when the recognition agreement [RA] was signed. Pawu requested for amendments to the RA and the revised RA was signed in May 2016.
“In the interim, Pawu has been recruiting for membership and finally reached the representation threshold of 15 percent plus one at the end of June 2016.”
The communiqué, which was read by Hara, said Taml and Pawu wage negotiations are a key delivery pillar within the Malawi Tea 2020 Revitalisation Project.
The project has been developed in response to concerns about low wages and poor living condition in the Malawi tea sector.
In collaboration with Taml, Oxfam, Fairtrade, IUF and IDH, which is the sustainable trade initiative, the Malawi 2020 Project is leading a coalition of players from across the entire tea value chain to create a competitive Malawian tea industry in which workers earn a living wage and that smallholder farmers are thriving.
Pawu president Gracian Khembo hailed the CBA, saying it is beneficial to workers because it has laid down standards for workers in the industry.
“This collective bargaining agreement covers wages and conditions of services in the tea industry. This is a binding document that has been agreed upon by the two groups,” he said.
On her part, Daisy Kambalame, who is the country director of IDH, said the tea industry is critical to the country’s socio-economic development.
She said the CBA is part of the tea revitalisation programme and that wages is just one pillar of the project.
Said Kambalame: “We all know that the tea industry is an important sector to the country and employs more than 50 000 people and supports more livelihoods.”
Tea is arguably the second generator of foreign exchange after tobacco and contributes about seven percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).