Blantyre City Council workers on strike, demand pay hike

Blantyre City Council (BCC) workers have started staging a strike demanding salary increment of 50 percent in line with the country’s currency devaluation.

The workers started downing tool as soon they returned from weekend; however the strike was not all that peaceful as it attracted the attention of Police.

Over a thousand BCC employees both administrative and ground workers, joined in the strike which has left the BCC head office at Civic Centre at Chichiri in a deserted state as the workers were forced to vacate the offices.

Strike action at City Council

The workers blocked entrance into the Civic Centre with tree branches, stones and burning tyres while chanting songs. It took the presence of Police Mobile Force (PMF) officers to intervene to cool the tempo as the workers deserted their offices in fear of their own lives.

Nyasa Times visit to the BCC head offices as well as its Fire Department at Ginnery Corner, found the premises heavily guarded by Police officers and there was no official from BCC seen around the buildings.

In random interviews, the workers who had gathered in groups some metres away from their offices said they decided to go on strike demanding 50 percent pay rise due to the escalating cost of living following the devaluation, floating and alignment of the Kwacha to US dollar by Joyce Banda’s administration in May this year.

“I don’t think this problem will be sorted soon because our bosses seem to don’t care about our plight. There is nothing tangible coming out from the government right now, and we have vowed to continue with the strike until we get our 50 percent increment,” one of the striking workers told Nyasa Times.

The strike at BCA came up just hours civil servants petitioned government to effect the 21 percent salary increment Parliament approved this year.

Strike zone

As BCC workers were busy demonstrating about their salary hike demand, some metres away lecturers at Polytechnics, a constituent of University of Malawi also hyped up the pressure, demanding government to effect their salary increment demand of 113 percent due to inflation.

The Poly strike now in its third week created tension as the students gathered at the college’s campus burning tree branches and some vehicle tyres demonstrating about their frustrations on failure by officials to sort out the strike problem. The tension spilled to the Chipembere highway affecting motorists.

Traffic has been a problem since morning as Police traffic officers have closed down some parts of the highway especially close to the college campus in order to contain the situation, which seem to be out of control. The students were seen at some points throwing stones at some vehicles in anger while shouting and chanting, demanding their lecturers to go back to work.

On Friday president for University of Malawi Workers Trade Union, Franklin Kampeni said it was out of question that the striking lecturers will go back to work soon.

He said there was for government to take heed of their grievances and approve the salary increment for the convenience of country’s tertiary education.

“It is surprising that government is saying there is no money for salary increments. If there is no money, then how come it approved a K40, 000 day allowance for Members of Parliaments without any problems? We feel we are being betrayed because government has clearly conceded that the cost of living now has escalated,” Kampeni told the local media.

Meanwhile, Malawi has turned into workers strike zone as both employees from government and private sectors are pushing for pay rise in the wake of Kwacha devaluation. Just last week Blantyre and Lilongwe Water Board workers were on strikes demanding salary increments as well.

And two weeks ago it was Tambala and Universal Industries employees who downed tools demanding a pay rise.

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