Malawi civil servants to hold street demos, close airport: Govt rejects 67% demand, offers ‘reasonable’ pay hike

The ongoing civil servants strike will take another turn on Wednesday as striking workers plan to take to the streets to protest against government’s reluctance to give in to their 67 percent salary hike demand and  have threatened to close the country’s airports.

“If government does not respond positively to our demands, civil aviation workers will join the strike which means all airports will be closed,” Eliah Kamphinda Banda, president of the Civil Service Trade Union CSTU)said Tuesday.

According to a letter sourced from CSTU dated February 18, 2013 to district commissioners in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu, city assembly chief executive officers, regional commissioners of police with a copy to Inspector General of Police, Chief Secretary in Office of the President and Cabinet, the civil servants say will march in all regions and districts as part of their current sit-in.

“As you aware that civil servants are staging a national wide strike which started on 11th February, 2013 as a stay away but developed into a sit-in up to Friday 15th February, 2013 whereby workers have been converging mainly at Capital Hill in Lilongwe and government offices in Blantyre respectively.

“You are further informed that on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m we shall march in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre….The marching shall be accompanied by singing and dancing,” reads part of the letter signed by CSTU president, Eliah Kamphinda and General Secretary, Pontius Elijah Kalichero.

Civil Servants in Blantyrehold a mini demo on Tuesday....Photo Jeromy Kadewere

Civil Servants in Blantyrehold a mini demo on Tuesday….Photo Jeromy Kadewere

Routes

In the letter, CSTU has also informed the authorities of the assembly points and the routes to be taken during the demonstrations.

In Lilongwe the civil servants are expected to converge at Capital Hill before proceeding to OPC to deliver their petition; in Mzuzu at Katoto Freedom Park; in Blantyre the civil servants will converge at regional government offices and in Zomba they will gather at Mponda school ground.

All civil servants in the districts are advised to meet at district commissioners’ offices.

The Malawi government employees led by Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) started their strike on February 11, 2013 at Capital Hill,

Lilongwe which has developed into  into a full blown industrial action with workers in Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba joining in.

Offer

Meanwhile, government says it will offer striking civil servants a new remuneration package which it says is reasonable within the prevailing economic conditions.

“While this is a delicate balancing act matching the demands of civil servants with available resources, it is the intention of Government that the dispute over salaries is resolved amicably and expeditiously so that Government institutions restore full services to the general public,” reads  a statement from the government negotiating team released  released at the close of business on Tuesday.

But the government team expressed disappointment with the absence of CSTU Negotiating Team in the last few days to conclude the negotiations, despite Government providing full logistical support to facilitate its presence in Capital Lilongwe.

Government said  “failure to conclude the negotiations with continued unavailability of the CSTU Team, will lead to public suffering, loss of business and potentially needless loss of life through non delivery of medical services, among others.”

It also said the new pay is intended to ensure that the progress towards economic recovery remains on course while addressing the legitimate expectations of civil servants.

Nothing yet has been disclosed about the new pay packet although civil servants have remained adamant and resolute in demanding a 67 percent pay hike which they say will cushion them against the floatation and the May 2012 devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha.

But government has also made it clear that it was not ready to increase its employees’ salaries by such a demand as doing so would completely cripple government business.

Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga insisted that government coffers do not have the money to meet the demand.

The minister said implementing the 67 percent pay hike would mean government shooting its wage bill from the current K92 billion to K276 billion.

“That means even after the civil servants have been paid there will be nothing else to do for them because there would be no money to pay for all other government social services,” Lipenga said.

Government “expects that CSTU will take immediate action, as a measure of goodwill, to call off the Civil Servants Strike if their negotiating team continues to be unavailable for final negotiations with Government,” the statement said.

The strike started slowly last week but has spread with teachers joining in. Nurses have also threatened to join the strike.–(Additional reporting by Collins Mtika, Nyasa Times)

They have vowed not to stop the strike until government listen to their grievances....Photo Jeromy Kadewere

They have vowed not to stop the strike until government listen to their grievances….Photo Jeromy Kadewere

This woman civil servant  cried uncontrollable during the vigil...Photo Jeromy Kadewere

This woman civil servant cried uncontrollable during the vigil in Blantyre…Photo Jeromy Kadewere

Teachers joined their fellow civil servants on Tuesday in Blantyre....Photo by Jeromy Kadewere

Teachers joined their fellow civil servants on Tuesday in Blantyre….Photo by Jeromy Kadewere

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