Over 2,400 employees of Sorwathe are set to benefit from a collective bargaining agreement signed between the tea firm and two of the country’s leading trade unions.
The move is aimed at improving the social welfare of employees and advance future negotiation of terms with their employers.
Based in Rulindo District, Sorwathe is the country’s largest tea processor and exporter.
Cally Alles, the Director General of Sorwathe, signed on behalf of Sorwathe, whereas Theodomir Hategekimana of Cestrar and Innocent Mukeshimana of Cotraf signed on behalf of employees.
Cotraf and Cestrar are umbrella bodies for more than 18 affiliated trade unions consisting of over 72,000 members from the private, public and informal sectors.
“The labour convention and collective agreement is intended to meet certain labour requirements and to promote both the productivity of Sorwathe and the social wellbeing of its employees. We are the first private company in Rwanda to finalise such a deed which is in accordance with the labour laws of Rwanda,” Alles explained.
“In the face of having no official minimum wage in the private sector, the bargaining agreement will indicate and classify salary scales in each professional employee category and ensure that it is respected by all parties”.
A tea picker at the factory, Stephano Niyomana, welcomed the agreement saying that his voice and needs would be taken closer to his employers.
“The company has communicated to us that they are revising our wages; this is one of the first fruits we have realised from the new agreement. I am hopeful that if we utilise these agreements through unions, our rights will always be protected,” he said.
At the moment, tea pickers at Sorwathe earn Rwf 24 per kilogramme collected.
Presiding over the function, the Minister of Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi, said that the initiative by Sorwathe reflects their commitment to becoming market leaders while ensuring protection of the rights of their workers.
“The ministry has been revising salary scales on the labour market, but we failed to come up with a conclusive minimum wage because the people we assigned to carry out research did not do it well,” he said.
“We, however, reassigned the task to another party and we are hopeful that by the end of the year, we will have a draft minimum wage reflecting views of local companies”.
Hategekimana urged employees to join trade unions so as to have a single and stronger voice while negotiating terms with their employers.Follow https://twitter.com/RushAfrican