A meeting between Malawian doctors and nurses and government hit a snug on Tuesday when high powered state emissaries failed to convince the medical personnel not to go on with their planned strike.
The meeting attended by the representatives of both sides including the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) ended without reaching an agreement as both sides could not agree on the demands and the offers put on the table.
The two sides met at Ministry of Health headquarters at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.
A source revealed to Nyasa Times that government could not convince the doctors and nurses to put their impending strike on hold until the economy improves as that would be the appropriate time to come up with a new salary structure for the medical personnel.
“The representatives of the medical workers felt that government was not being honest with the suggestion. The major concern was that while government is trying to negotiate there are some state agents who are going about threatening people accusing them of causing the unrest,” said a source who was part of the meeting.
He explained that the medical staff have noted that of late there have been postings on social media where individuals are being picked as the ones instigating the strikes.
Recently, there was a post on Facebook whereby several civil servants from the judiciary were singled out as the ones instigating the strike in the judiciary with one of the post threatening that these individuals will be dealt with.
The doctors and nurses in Malawi are planning to go on a nationwide strike demanding government to increase their salaries and allowances, a situation that government is fearing will put further strain on the country’s crumbling public healthcare facilities.
The medical personnel are complaining that their salaries have been steadily eroded by the country’s galloping inflation rate and weakening buying power of local currency, Kwacha.
Government bars health workers and those from other essential services from striking but nurses have often defied the directive.
Already, staff at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe are serving a seven-day notice to withdraw labour if government will not address their grievances.
In a letter dated November 9, 2014 addressed to the Ministry of Health, the staff said they feel cheated that government has not revised their allowances and salaries considering the very risky circumstances they work under.
Stella Warren, chairperson of the KCH social welfare committee, said that they will down tools until all issues are resolved.
“We want salary harmonisation. From Tuesday [last] week, we also demand that they [government] should replace locum with overtime, we cannot live like this,” said Warren as quoted in the local press.
Ministry of Health chief medical services director Charles Mwansambo promised after receiving the letter that government would work on the issues.
Nurses at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre and Zomba Central hospital are also pressing for higher pay and improved working conditions.
Economic analysts have warned that Malawi is likely to see more strikes by dissatisfied workers grappling with an economic gloom with donor freeze.
Meanwhile, the country’s judicial system is paralysed after courtroom staff went on a strike while primary school teachers also at one time boycotted classes to obtain salaries not paid for almost six months.
Labour militancy appears to be on the rise.
Last week, supporting staff of the University of Malawi launched a sit in to demand a 45 percent salary hike while the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau has its operations at a halt following similar strikes which have so far forced government to use the Police to seal off the ACB offices.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :