Malawi government has called a meeting today Monday with other employers and employees to look at the issue of strikes in the country.

“We have invited Ecama as employers, MCTU to represent the workers, statutory corporations, the Ministry of Water because they were affected by a big strike and Ministry of Labour as a party that has been trying to resolve labour issues,” said Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala.

She said this while responding to accusations against government’s handling of the recent strikes coming in the wake of a Nation on Sunday survey.

The survey asked whether government effectively handled the recent strikes and the results were damning: 72 percent of our respondents said government has not handled the strikes well.

Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) boss John Kapito, rather predictably, also faulted government while agreeing with the survey.

“It was pathetic. Government was not prepared and they did not know what to do with the strikes. The state was not ready to deal with the effects of devaluation. That’s why they are going from one strike to another trying to solve them.

“There should have been a policy statement telling people what to expect after devaluation. They should have engaged and discussed with the people to signal the coming of hard times,” said Kapito.

The minister, however, insisted that government did enough.

“It’s not fair and it’s a lie. We have dealt with all strikes that were ongoing. We also went and dealt with those that were rumoured to happen like at Escom,” said Makangala.

National Secretary for the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace (CCJP), Chris Chisoni, said the main problem that is emerging from the strikes is communication breakdown.

“There is need for internal communication between government and CEOs of parastatals and other employers to check if there are any grievances so that all parties can be taken on board and resolve issues before they get to striking.

“The problem is that some CEOs sit on employees’ grievances and the result is that employees stage a strike or demonstration,” said Chisoni.

Kapito said the strikes were not only just about perks but rather a flag to signal to government that times are hard and thus a call to government to walk with the people and be exemplary in the spending.

General Secretary of the Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (Pascow), Gift Khangamwa, whose body has been in one of the longest strikes this year, however, spoke contrary to the survey findings.

Khangamwa said the strike by Poly lecturers was primarily directed at the University Council but said the fact that President Joyce Banda actually invited and had an audience with them spoke of significant government intervention.

“That said, I think it’s time we took a closer look at the issues. We should ask why everyone is suddenly asking for increments,” said Khangamwa.

Makangala said tomorrow’s meeting will take place at her ministry’s headquarters in Lilongwe.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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