Minister of Labour Agnes NyaLonje has called on employers in the tobacco industry to implement policies that safeguard workers’ interests and promote their welfare.
She said this yesterday in Lilongwe when Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited handed over 20 motorcycles worth about K30 million to the ministry to be used to inspect the quality of work conditions in farms involved in tobacco production.
NyaLonje said the motorcycles will help ensure that farmers contracted to grow tobacco by Limbe Leaf and other companies comply with international labour standards.
She said: “Labour inspections are key to ensuring that local farmers produce tobacco in line with existing labour laws.
“It is important for us to partner the private sector in a public private partnership arrangement which is usually mutually beneficial whereby the ministry is supporting Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company to secure its international markets through the promotion of decent work in the company’s supply chain.”
The Ministry of Labour signed a memorandum of understanding with tobacco companies to promote fair work practices in the aftermath of a 2019 United States (US) withhold release order on tobacco from Malawi amid allegations that there was rampant child labour.
NyaLonje said she was impressed with the progress the Malawi Government, through the ministries of Labour and Agriculture and tobacco producers have made to eliminate unfair labour practices.
Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company Limited managing director Don McAlpin said the donation of the motorcycles is a show of commitment to their ethos of conducting business with integrity.
He said: “We have comprehensive programmes to ensure that there is no child labour in the value chain and people are compensated fairly.
“But there are some challenges and this calls for a multifaceted approach.”
In a separate interview, Limbe Leaf corporate affairs manager Leah Hez said the farm inspections will help ministry officials to identify and implement corrective measures when they flag unfair labour practices.
Tobacco still remains Malawi’s main foreign exchange earner, bringing about 60 percent of the country’s forex earnings and 13 percent to the country’s economy.
The tobacco industry employs million of people directly and indirectly throug its value chain.