Hundreds of Blantyre City Council (BCC) employees on Wednesday started their peaceful indefinite demonstration demanding a 61 percent salary increment.
The employees told Nyasa Times outside their sealed Ginnery Corner offices in Blantyre, life was becoming unbearable for them and their demand was in line with the daily rising costs of basic household needs.
The council has over 2 500 employees, majority of whom receive less than K30 000 monthly salary.
In addition, the workers want all leaders of their union and management team (specifically Chief Executive Officer, Ted Nandolo and Director of Administration, Alfred Chanza) to step down.
Nandolo and Chanza are accused of plundering the council’s miserable resources and turning the public institution into their “personal firm’ while the union leaders have been labeled as “toothless and corrupt” for failing to represent the workers.
“We have been fooled for a long time we are now tired and will not accept anything other than salary increment,” said one angry striking worker.
A visit to BCC Ginnery Corner offices showed scores of workers just cracking jokes and discussing other social issues as all entrances into the office complex remained sealed.
However, the situation was relatively different at the Civic Centre (BCC headquarters) where most workers were seen occupying their offices but doing nothing.
There was no immediate comment from BCC as its Public Relations Manager Lunzana Khanga could not pick up her phone when contacted.
In February, government offered a 61 and five percent pay hike to its lowest paid and high earners civil servants respectively effective January 1, 2013 after a two week industrial action that paralysed its business.
And the BCC employees also want the same salary adjustments to be effected by their employer claiming they also buy from same shops where civil servants go to.
In March, the employees had planned for an industrial action immediately after Easter holiday if authorities failed to respond to their four-day ultimatum by March 28th but it (strike) was systematically foiled by some members of the management as well as their trade union leaders.
But a source within the Treasury Department confided in Nyasa Times last month that if the increment was to be implemented, management would do so out of fear and not in line with the income flows of the scandal and corrupt-hit council.
“Things are not healthy, Nandolo [CEO] has completely ruined the once mighty public institution and if the pay hike is implemented it will be scandalous,” the source told Nyasa Times.
The council is currently under serious financial destitution, operating on deficit that forced it to let off over 500 temporary workers last month (March) with its junior workers only getting their April monthly pay over the weekend, more than two weeks after their official pay-day.
Meanwhile, Nyasa Times has learnt that BCC management has suspended Chimwemwe Makhonja, a casual worker, for his leading role in disseminating message to fellow workers about the strike.
“He [Makhonja] was in charge of the sub section of the publicity team responsible for information flow to other workers and some people reported him to the Director of Administration [Chanza],” said the source.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :