May 29, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai in Pujehun
SOCFIN labourers including men and women reporting for work on Friday morning
Aggrieved labourers at the Belgium SOCFIN Agricultural Company have complained that their monthly wages were not commensurate to the task they accomplished for every month.
SOCFIN Agricultural Company operates in Sahn Malen chiefdom, Pujehun district, Southern Sierra Leone.
The aggrieved labourers, who spoke to this reporter during a three-day fact finding mission in Sahn Malen chiefdom, said the poor conditions of service was seriously affecting their progress.
At Putine junction, which is one of the assembly points, a labourer, who spoke to Concord Times on condition of anonymity, said the task they accomplished on the farm, was too arduous.
“We harvest 175 bundles of oil palm fruits per day and we are paid twenty thousand Leones (Le20, 000). Some of us slash 85oil palm trees and we are also paid Le20,000 per day. The money is accumulated according to the number of days,” the anonymous source explained.
The anonymous labourer claimed that they always assemble at 5:00am, and that failure to report on time could attract punishment
“This is an open detention, because our supervisors are very harsh with us. Some of us are coming from a very long distance to our assembly points on a daily basis and only rest on Sundays,” he said.
He claimed that they would only receive ten thousand Leones (Le10,000)or less instead of the required Le20,000,if they fail to accomplish their daily routine.
“If only we would have got our lands to farm, which we have unavoidably leased to SOCFIN, we would have opted to cultivate crops instead of working for this company. We no longer have available lands to farm at all, so we found ourselves between the devil and the deep blue sea,” the source said.
He recalled that previously, SOCFIN was providing vehicles that used to convey them from their villages to various assembly points, but that management had withdrew all.
A woman whose responsibility was to transport harvested oil palm fruits also claimed that she always transports 175 bundles of palm fruits on a daily basis and receives Le20,000.
She disclosed that she used to transport 200 bundles of oil palm fruits per day, but stated that the number was reduced because many were complaining.
“I am residing at Sahn Malen town and I woke up at 3:15 daily to trek to this assembly point. Our supervisors allocate one woman to a man who harvest oil palm fruits. It’s difficult now to harvest one oil palm fruit because we have to thoroughly search the farm to get one bundle. We are exhausted every day,” the woman said in tears.
“I am a widow with four children but I have no option rather than do this work now.”
However, Human Resource Manager, SOCFIN Agricultural Company, Abu Amara, said they usually give task to labourers daily, and that some labourers are asked to prune 85 oil palm branches per day, while they received Le20, 000.
The SOCFIN HRM said complaints that women were usually exhausted on duty was a complete false, noting that there was no gender bias at SOCFIN, because they wanted to strictly follow international standards.
He added that workers assemble at 6:30 am and start work at 7:00am, adding that they used to have transport system in place to convey all workers from their villages to the assembly points.
“We stopped that because we wanted people, who have abandoned their villages to settle at Sahn Malen, to return to their villages. We stopped providing transport for them in February 2016. So, we decided to hire people that are in villages very close to the oil palm plantation. We allocate certain tasks including slashing, weeding, nursing, planting, harvesting, among others, to them,” he explained.