Mountain Porters - an Inside Perspective
An Original Tanzanian perspective
We really have ‘climbed’ our way up in real terms when speaking about Mount Kilimanjaro from starting out as Porters, Guides and then reaching the level of Lead Guide. It didn’t stop there, but rather we ended up leading other International Guides who brought their own groups but relied on us for knowledge of the environment, safety and in motivational terms. We therefore feel we are in a good position to write about where we, at Original Tanzania, stand on wages, tips and general understanding.
We are of course familiar with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Association Project) http://www.kiliporters.org/ and believe they are doing a good thing to raise awareness of the issues facing porters. However, as they say, some organisations may agree to abide by the suggested minimum wage and other working conditions but then not actually carry it out. This partly relates to the following:-
There are some key issues facing Tanzanians when it comes to employment. They do not have organized unions or any kind of back up welfare system for if they are out of work. This means that encouraging them to strike in order to push up wages and fight for better rights is futile because there will always be other local people who will fill their spaces. The “in country” competition is fierce and this means that if a company works hard to pay better wages, this may result in the cost of their tour being higher. As a result of this, some clients take their business elsewhere. When clients ask for a ‘cheaper’ quote, no matter where a company decides to try and make cuts, it will inevitably impact wages.
Other issues relate to payment not being on time and tips not making their way direct to the Porters / Guides based on what clients wish to pay. Both are serious issues and completely unacceptable.
It is logical that a happier workforce leads to better service and everyone benefits. As with anything, YOU (the consumer) are able to influence so many things when you make a conscious decision on how you spend your money. We are really serious about this because we know how it feels to have erratic employment and be at the mercy of an employer and competitive markets.
When you enquire about Kilimanjaro treks with us, we will send guidelines on tipping but we will also add that this is entirely at your discretion. In some cultures/countries, people may quite rightly ask why they have to tip because surely that means the minimum wage that they receive is not a livable wage..? This will not be the case with our company.
In both ‘developed’ as well as ‘developing’ countries there are accepted customs based on certain types of service industries and tipping. We cannot put a personal value on the experience you have on Mount Kilimanjaro which is also why many people feel they want to reward the workers their own way. We hope that providing you with this information has helped those of you who care about this and want to be more informed.
With Best Wishes
The Original Tanzania Team