Govt commends local workers at Kayelekera for peaceful strike

Malawi’s Ministry of Labour officials have extended kudos to local staff members of Paladin’s Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga district for their fearless approach in demanding from their employers what they believe is reasonable for them.

The Malawian employees had been on strike since last week, May 11, demanding, among others, an immediate salary adjustment which should compensate the 49 percent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha government effected on May 7.

Their argument was that since Paladin’s budget and functional currency is in US dollars then the devaluation meant that local salaries must automatically be adjusted.

Apart from local employees, all the expatriates working for Kayelekera Mining site receive their salaries in US dollars.

Striking workers at Kayelekera

“Since the kwacha was devalued from about K167 to K250 to a dollar this effectively means that local employees’ salaries have been reduced by almost half, that is why we want management to consider us,” Chairperson of the Local Staff Association (LSA), Emmanuel Makolo, said.

The government officials have also applauded the employees for their understanding during the negotiation process which resulted in calling off the industrial action on Thursday, May 17.

The labour officials made the commendation at the end of a meeting between Paladin Africa Limited (PAL) who are owners and operators of Kayelekera Mine and representatives of local employees (LSA members).

Four senior industrial relations officers from the Ministry of Labour who included W. Mjaidi, G. Nkuna, K. Kaonga and E. M. Kayange witnessed the signing ceremony of the Dispute Resolution Agreement between PAL and LSA.

“It is not bad to lawfully demand what one thinks is right… But we would like to commend the local employees for their understanding during the entire negotiation process,” an official told Nyasa Times.

In the resolution agreement, Paladin and its local workforce, among others, agreed that the local staff will undertake to perform normal duties without further industrial action except as provided for under the Labour Relations Act 16 of 1996.

The two parties also agreed that the local employees drop their demands for salary increment and setting of local salaries pegged to US$.

PAL has also agreed to undertake to conduct a review of local salaries within six months from May 7, 2012 in line with the increasing cost of living.

However, the Local Staff Association will have to provide input for the consideration of management at the country’s largest mining investment in the cost of living review.

Paladin further undertook that there will be no job losses in respect of the seven-day industrial action but there will be no pay for the days the employees missed from work.

The Dispute Resolution Agreement was signed on behalf of Paladin by its top bosses in Malawi Mark Chalmers, Greg Walker and John Chandler while Chairperson of LSA, Emmanuel Makolo, led eight other members of his team in signing the document. The four labour officials also appended their signatures.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear as to how much Paladin lost in revenue following the industrial action which resulted in complete shutdown of uranium production.

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