Malawi Government has decided to hold an all-inclusive stakeholders meeting by next week as a means of finding solutions to the now infectious wave of industrial strikes in the public and private sectors.
Malawi’s Labour Minister Eunice Makangala, who visited Blantyre Water Board (BWB) on Monday and ended an ongoing strike after she announced an average of 25 percent salary increment to the board employees, said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines that the stakeholders meeting would include ministries of Finance, Water and the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), among others.
As Makangala was at BWB for crisis talks with the institution’s management and later employees, the police was on high alert at Blantyre City Council (BCC) offices where employees had downed tools and blocked some roads, demanding a 150 percent salary hike.
Later in the afternoon, President Joyce Banda also engaged the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) and the Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (Pascow) in crisis talks to convince the lecturers not to withhold their labour.
Presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane confirmed the meeting with the academics, saying the President was very optimistic that the threats for industrial action in the university would soon end with those discussions.
Nhlane said the two parties reached an amicable conclusion on the way forward.
A public demonstration by Polytechnic students who took to the streets and blocked the Masauko Chipembere Highway to protest the unresolved lecturers’ issue also added to on Monday’s ugly scenes.
Makangala said government is deeply concerned about the industrial actions, adding that they have a huge negative impact on the economy.
Meanwhile, MCTU secretary general Robert Mkwezalamba also said his union earlier proposed an all-inclusive stakeholders forum to discuss the plight of parastatals.
Said Mkwezalamba: “Unfortunately, government has not seen the reasoning and failed to take advantage of this initiative as they have chickened out and remained non-responsive to this meeting.
“As a result, we have told Ministry of Labour…that we are standing down and will only watch how they will resolve the over 20 strikes…Our attention will simply focus on addressing the plight of the workers with the view to encourage them to follow procedures and only engage in legal strikes until government gets to start thinking big.”
Makangala acknowledged the MCTU proposal, but said it never immediately came to her attention.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito argued the strikes are a sign of poor management of the devaluation because government was not forthcoming with information on how the weak kwacha would impact on the lives of the citizenry.
Said Kapito: “The way we managed the devaluation has been very poor, especially on the part of government.”
He added: “There was excitement on the part of the leadership…to devalue the kwacha so that she can gain mileage with the donors when the leadership had no idea of managing the impact of that devaluation. The floating of the kwacha was also done without understanding Malawi’s economy.”