Every Saturday by mid-afternoon, in the moist heat, a line of men stretchesbefore the local payroll. On the other side of the bay window, a table is arranged. On it are spreading sheets listing the names of the employees finally... the employees receiving payroll.
“Very few women, very few young adults…. It is clear to the naked eye that people awaiting their pay does not match to what we saw working in the plantation, neither in number nor in gender – very few women, nor in age – very few young adults” noted Martine Combemale.
“The plantation makes a statement that she has that many workers. But in reality, it is about only the head of household, or people in charge of a group of migrants”, she explains. This allows the company “to pay social charges only for one person” she explains.
All employees, but not equal
“In the plantations, different status coexist”, noted Martine Combemale. “In general, efforts focus on the permanent workers, often with benefits such as scholarships for education of children”.
Their case, in this plantation, is highlighted in their report but their number does not exceed 50 employees, beyond which staff representatives are required.
A second group of staff, the temporary employees, has neither contract nor payroll, contrary to the requirement of the law. They do not exist, officially, and have no legal or social protection.
“They are paid hourly, and overtime are seldom paid to the fair price…when counted,” she says.
The last group of staff, the largest, nearly 600 employees in the studied plantation, are seasonal in charge for picking. Despite the law that obliges to declare each employee who works on a farm, only the head of household or group have a payroll: “children do not exist, women either, the risk of abusive child labor is at its maximum despite the assurance by the management of absence of child labor,” noted Martine Combemale.
They receive 0.078 for 500 grams of coffee, regardless of the number of hours worked by all family members orgroup of workers.
“Especially as seasonal and temporary workers have pay slips, [these workers] are paid in cash and have only to sign that they receive the money, which does not allow them to check the accuracy of their pay and complain,” she says.
“Finally, in case of a work-related accident, those employees are not covered as they do not exist. The responsibility of the plantation will, maybe, take them to the hospital,but the payment will be made by hand and not hing will be recorded,”she adds.
“Therefore, it is about abusive, illegal, carrier of child labor” she says.
However, such a situation is not inevitable: some plantations, especially those organized by cooperatives with a strong independent union, respect the law and the child labor risk is very limited.
The announced working time for pickers is also confusing. It is officially eight hours, six days a week. But once the day of picking is done, they must wait at the assembly point. This waiting time is not counted.
Besides, on Sundays,they call on work from “temporary workers”. They are not paid as overtime and they can refuse. But many accept [the work] hoping to be hired as “permanent workers”.
“Only compliance with the law and having a management system especially suited for a mass arrival of seasonal workers, would limit the risks of exploitative child labor without impacting the viability of the plantation as seen in other holdings,” insists Diane Mull.