Mulli Brothers is failing to pay its tea estate workers in Mulanje and 500 of them have gone to the labour office for mediation.
Up to 500 workers of Smallholder Tea Company (Steco) and Chitakale tea estate, subsidiary companies of Mulli Group in Mulanje district, have given up their jobs after the group failed to pay them salary arrears for three months, a district labour officer has confirmed.
The employees made the decision on Monday afternoon during mediation talks held at the district labour office where the workers marched to present their grievances, our sources at the companies in Mulanje said.
The workers had earlier in the morning held protests at their premises, demanding their pay.
Management of the company had to call the Police who fired teargas to disperse the angry workers, who blocked roads leading into the premises of the two companies and denied other employees access, effectively grounding to a halt production at the two companies.
Some of those interviewed accused their employer of taking their patience for granted by failing to honour promises made after another strike by the workers early last month.
“We have lost our patience. Our bosses have been lying to us all along. They promised to pay us our arrears by 30th November, but to date we haven’t been paid. All they do is to tell us more lies,” said one of the employees.
Mulanje District Labour Officer Gideon Mothisa confirmed both the strike and the resignation of some of the employees.
He, however, said an assessment by his office is that progress has been made in settling the matter.
“Initially the money that the employer owed the workers was about K20 million, but now it has been reduced to just over K6 million because some of the workers have been paid.
“The only thing that is not pleasing some workers is that the employer is asking for more time to source some more funds to finish off the payments. So indeed those that cannot wait have opted to quit,” Mothisa said.
The agreement, according to Mothisa, is that the group should be paid their arrears and terminal benefits by this Friday.
Steco Human Resource Manager Martin Chikoya declined to comment on the issue when contacted on Monday, saying he had been out of office.