Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU)has backed government over its decision to drop the Bill which would abolish use of tenancy labour in tobacco production.
MCTU Secretary General Denis Kalekeni said the only option to address problems which go with tenancy services is abolish the whole system of employment.
Tenancy labour system involves the provision and/or use of labour that sees the person offering the service (tenant) being paid after the sale of the crop at the end of the growing season.
Government wanted to abolish the system widely regarded as highly exploitative. It stipulates contracts between tenants and their landlords to ensure fairness.
Under the tenancy system, estate owners, normally called landlords, recruit farmers from distant districts to grow tobacco for them on their estates. The tenants are offered accommodation and food rations on monthly basis as well as a cut of the earnings from sales proceeds.
Malawi is an agro based economy and according to Kalekeni, much of its forex is earned from agricultural products including tobacco and tea among others.
“These crops contribute over 40% towards the Gross Domestic Product of this country. And evidence on the ground shows that tenants dominate the sector in terms of production. Despite the industry heavily contributing towards the economic growth of this country, little has been done to improve the lives of the people involved in the farms/estates to produce these important national products and currently the whole system needs to be abolished because its total slavery,” said Kalekeni.
Kalekeni however expressed concern wuth the overgrowing number of child labour happening in these tobacco and tea estates.
According to the 2015 National Child labour survey, 38% of children aged between 5-7 years were in child labour representing about 2.1 million from 1.4 million in 2002.
“MCTU appreciate numerous efforts from government and other stakeholders including the tobacco buying companies. But sadly child labour and forced labour issues are still traceable in some of this country,” he said.
He said evidence from the fields also shows that majority of these farmers/workers/tenants; stay in substandard houses.
MCTU is also not happy with low salaries/wages including poor prices for their product push farmers and workers into deep poverty for instance on average a worker in the industry receives around MK40,000.00 per month equivalent to USD 54.57.
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