Malawi civil servant’s strike worsening: Lipenga says no money for pay hike

Civil servants in Malawi have remained adamant and continue defying government’s call to end their stay-away as the situation is steadily getting worse.

There is no sign of an end to the ongoing nationwide strike which is in its second week as more essential government sectors have also started downing their tools.

Public teachers across the country joined the protests Tuesday morning   after snubbing the strike in its initial stages due to misunderstandings between their body, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) and the organisers, Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU).

The teachers, who are the least paid government employees, constitute about 70 percent of the country’s 120 000 civil service workforce.

Lipenga: Government not ready to bowi to the demands of civil servants
Lipenga: Government not ready to bowi to the demands of civil servants

And fresh reports have emerged that staff at the Immigration, Road Traffic, Civil Aviation and Meteorological departments are set to go into full scale strike starting from Wednesday morning.

“Yes we have agreed to join our friends tomorrow [Wednesday] and we are set,” an officer at the Road Traffic Directorate at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre told Nyasa Times on Tuesday.

“We are all civil servants, the differences are the sectors, as such we feel by not being part of the strike we are being cowards because we are all fighting for the same cause,” he explained.

Some nurses, doctors and support staff joined the strike on Monday morning despite their body, National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (NONM), hinting that its members must only join the strike once government fails to act on their complaints after the two-week ultimatum, which they issued on February 14.

The civil servants have vowed never to resume work until their grievances on 67 percent salary hike and improved working conditions are addressed.

But government has also made it clear that it was not ready to increase its employees’ salaries by such a demand as doing so would completely cripple government business.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga insisted government coffers do not have money to carter for such a demand.

The minister said implementing the 67 percent pay hike would mean government shooting its wage bill from the current K92 billion to K276 billion.

“If we indeed accept such a demand, it would translate to a total of K276 billion having to go to wages and salaries of civil servants and that would not leave any penny for all other government services because it is almost the entire budget in as far as expenditure is concerned.

“That means even after the civil servants have been paid there will be nothing else to do for them because there would be no money to pay for all other government social services,” said Lipenga.

Among others, civil servants are demanding harmonisation of conditions of service between those working in the mainstream civil service and parastatals.

Striking civil servants carrying casket made of tree braches in their demo in Blantyre
Striking civil servants carrying casket made of tree braches in their demo in Blantyre

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