Employees, union leaders clash over salary issue

Blantyre City Council (BCC) members of the trade union committee had a rude awakening on Monday when fellow employees “demonized” them for their ineffectual handling of the salary increment, among several outstanding issues.

Upon returning from a presidential directed two-week holiday for civil servants on Monday, January 9, the trade unionists organised a meeting for the employees to deliver the “good news” of salary increment.

However, contrary to their anticipation for a rapturous mood upon announcing the news, the unionists ended up being humiliated by the employees, Nyasa Times can reveal.

Ted Nandolo: Blantyre City Council CEO

Salary increment

Led by their leader, Mathews Chiwoko, the committee told members of staff that after a series of meetings, BCC management has finally agreed to adjust salaries by 18 percent for junior workers.

“At last a baby is born but I do not know whether it is a girl or boy because after waiting for a long time, we have come up with good news to you all. It’s about salary increment with back pay from October 2011.

“Initially, management wanted 15 percent increase for juniors [Council’s Grade S3 downwards] and 10 percent for the seniors [S2 above] but we bargained for something better for the juniors which is 18 percent for us, the juniors, and seven percent for them, which is effective 1st October last year, how about that?” Chiwoko is said to have boastfully told the employees.

However, according to our source, this did not please the employees who attended the meeting. Instead of patting the unionists on the back, the workers just started murmuring, disapproving the 18 percent adjustment, which they claimed meant nothing and was actually an insult to them.

Confusion

The source disclosed that a commotion nearly erupted after one executive member in an attempt to please his boss (Chiwoko) provoked the gathering when he shouted at the people for not giving applause to the union leader’s announcement of the good news.

“But the disgruntled employees jeered at him with others threatening to deal with him. It was the union secretary a Mr. Kabwatika who brought back sanity to the meeting after he tactically diffused the tension.

The union secretary explained to the employees not to assume that the 18 percent offered was final settlement.

“That’s the bargaining point… and do not let be mislead because you may end up falling in trouble for following someone’s line of thinking. Let those who are unhappy with this arrangement speak for
themselves,” bashed Kabwatika.

But this statement again did not go down well with the workers who, out of respect, just started walking out on the meeting one by one without hitting back.

Boycott

Earlier in the day Chiwoko sent his lieutenants with all the pomp to restrict any employee from going out of the BCC Ginnery Corner offices for field work to attend the emergency meeting.

Unfortunately, according to our source, only about 60 people availed themselves out of about 1500 employees who are stationed at the Ginnery Corner offices. And most of the people who attended were drivers and security guards.

The driver’s presence at the meeting was mainly due to fuel shortage that has not spared the council as over 30 of its fleet of vehicles are just parked at the fire brigade as they do not have fuel while the
security guards were present because that is there camp.

After the Ginnery Corner meeting, the union leaders addressed another meeting at the Civic Centre offices where things were not rosy either, according to our source.

The meeting was attended by less than 30 people yet Civic Centre, which is the headquarters of Blantyre City Council, has over 800 members of staff.

At the start of the meeting, the self imposed union leader told the gathering that no questions would be entertained but at the end some few individuals who remained gave the committee some tough time seeking clarifications on some pertinent issues but the unionists dodged claiming that was not the right forum.

Loss of confidence

The people wanted to know what the union was doing on issues to do housing scheme, rampant nepotism where 98 percent of management team is of Lhomwe tribe, flouted employment procedures, disciplinary enforcements, undue suspensions, termination of service procedures and
their mandate as union leaders.

Our source said BCC employees have lost trust and confidence in the union leaders who have not brought anything beneficial to the workers since they were elected apart from satisfying their interests.

“We have been suffering because the union leaders are too greedy… They have not represented us at all because they are all bribed by management.

“Can you imagine, all executive members of union have been offered houses and plots for sale at give away rates, they have had their relations offered employment, themselves have been promoted, given education scholarships, all this is happening when we are just rotting,” alleged our source.

He also blamed BCC employees for being “sleeping dogs” claiming that they have allowed the union leaders to continue running the affairs of the union for nine years when their mandate is only three years.

The employees have since called for the immediate resignation of the entire union executive.

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