Malawi teachers finally join civil servants’ strike

Things are slowly getting out of hand for Malawi’s President Joyce Banda’s administration following a declaration on Monday by the country’s public teachers that they were also joining the nationwide civil servants’ strike.

Earlier in the day some health workers in the country also joined the strike which has now entered its second week despite calls from government not to do so.

Leaders of the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) earlier asked the teachers not to participate in the strike until the body had ironed out the differences it had with the Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU), organisers of the nationwide stay away.

However, TUM announced on Monday it was now joining the strike after a successful meeting it had in Lilongwe with representatives of the CSTU.

Civil servants carrying one of the placard in Blantyre on Monday.-Photo by Jeromy Kadewere/Nyasa Times

Civil servants carrying one of the placard in Blantyre on Monday.-Photo by Jeromy Kadewere/Nyasa Times

In a joint statement, the two public sector unions agreed to coordinate and work together in the current fight for improvement of conditions of services for all civil servants and teachers in particular, who constitute about 70 percent of the civil service in Malawi.

“As a result of this development all teachers in the public sector are with effect from Tuesday, 19thFebruary, 2013 joining the strike,” reads item (4) of the statement jointly signed by TUM Secretary General Denis Kalekeni and CSTU President Elia Kamphinda Banda.

The statement adds that “Teachers Union of Malawi is therefore teachers to put their tools down and get in constant touch with their districts’,  divisions’ and national executive leaders for direction.”

TUM initially stayed away from the strike when it begun accusing CSTU leaders of not involving it in their negotiations with government and that they did not also appreciate the position paper which they presented to government thereby “having no entry point in as far as the strike is concerned.”

“We have therefore agreed to put all other issues aside and concentrate on the salaries and the improved condition of service for the civil servants,” Kalekeni said in an interview.

He said as TUM, they were very much concerned with the strike which was supposed to be the last resort but they had no choice because the issue is about people’s welfare.

“The issue is the cost of living which has gone exorbitantly high because of issues that are being triggered by policies put in place by this same government. We are talking of floatation of the kwacha, we are talking of the devaluation of the kwacha and I think government again has to put mechanism in place to ease the pain that is being experienced by its workers, and in this case the salary has to be revised,” he explained.

He observed that currently there was no teaching in primary public schools because teachers were frustrated and demoted since the salary they are receiving at the moment had shrinked to almost 30 percent of the initial value and there was no way they could cope with such type of life.

Malawi civil servants have been on a stay away since last week Monday in an attempt to force government to increase their meagre salaries and improve working conditions.

Speaking over the weekend through her Press Secretary, Steve Nhlane, President Banda urged all civil servants to resume their work to avoid further paralyzing government operations.

She appealed to the civil servants to continue with the negotiations with government reps while their grievances were being looked into.

The civil servants are more angrier with the fact that despite their calls for salary increment, the president continues giving them a deaf ear as she traverses the country day in day out performing inconsequential tasks at the expense of millions of taxi payers money.

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