Malawi cities brace for shop workers strike: Female workers bemoan sexual harassment

Shop workers in Malawi’s southern cities of Blantyre and Zomba are reorganizing themselves for what they call ‘a huge industrial strike that seeks to push their employees especially Asians, Nigerians, Chinese and Lebanese to hike their monthly salaries.

The workers told Nyasa Times reporters that they will do this is solidarity with their counterparts in the capital Lilongwe who on Monday staged a stay way demanding a minimum monthly salary increase of about 350 percent.

A shop worker in the Eastern City of Zomba, [who opted for anonymity for fear of reprisals] told Nyasa Times that they are tired of the meager salaries they get from Asian shop owners saying it does not tarry with the current high cost of living which has largely caused by the devaluation and floatation of the local currency, the Kwacha.

“It’s just unfortunate that our Lilongwe counterparts did not inform us of their planned action we wanted this to be a national strike similar to that of civil servants trade union. We are really suffering and I can say that we are the lowest paid and abused workers in the country,” said a worker for an Asian hardware shop.

Demo for shop workers in Lilongwe
Demo for shop workers in Lilongwe

Another female worker in Limbe corroborated saying they are not only paid low wages but they are also sexually molested by their employers who bonk them at will.

“Many girls have no choice and to keep their jobs they agree to sleep with the bosses. You may think that I am exaggerating just ask other girls they will tell you the same if they are honest,” she said.

The workers allege that their employees have been telling them to just quit the job whenever they are approached to consider them raising their salaries which range between MK5000 and K15, 000 per month to the lowest and highest paid workers respectively.

In Lilongwe the striking workers were demanding a minimum salary of K20, 000 for the lowest paid workers and a minimum of K40, 000 for the highest paid worker.

At the moment, the minimum pay for the shop workers is pegged at between K5 000 ($11) and K6 000 (about $14) per month without housing allowance.

Shop workers spokesperson in Lilongwe, Nicholas Sele said their industrial action was not aimed to force the shop owners to close their shops, but were only entering the shops to ensure that no local worker was working during the stay way.

However this forced many shops to close down as some shop owners told a local radio that they have lost over K50 million in sales due to the stay away.

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