Malawi library staff on indefinite strike, people denied electoral information

The indefinite strike by staff at National Library Services (NLS) offices across Malawi entered the third day today with the irate workers not relenting in their demand for a 10% salary increment which, they allege, their adamant management has been withholding deliberately.

Library Staff on strike
Strike action

The strike is more likely to deny information many people especially students who rely on NLS offices where they read newspapers to grasp current affairs pertaining to the incoming elections and other issues of national importance.

Nyasa Times understands that Communication Workers Union of Malawi (COWUMA) and Ministry of Labour officials have tried to bring the two parties to negotiations that are not bearing any fruits.

Said one anonymous worker, “The staff had settled for 10% and 5% increase for higher and lower grades respectively, an amount totaling MK32million but government through treasury said they can only approve that in the next fiscal year.

This has angered the staff who,  since 2017, have been cheated by their management who also promised them a 20% increament which they never fulfilled in 2018”.

The worker added: “In the discussions with Ministry of Labour and COWUMA on Friday, the workers were ready to take 5% increment now with arrears and the balance in the next fiscal year but the management also refused this.

Surprisingly, the management is illegally keeping gratuity funds which the Controller of Statutory Corporations ordered it to dissolve and allocate the fund to staff.

The fund was set up for top management in order to pay themselves gratuity at the end of their contracts this year against public service regulations and it totaled MK39 million by January 2019. In fact, the workers demands are totaling MK32 million for 10% and MK16 million for 5%”.

NLS COWUMA Chairperson Stella Buwani confirmed all this in an interview.

“We will continue with the strike untill the management bows to our demands,” she said.

COWUMA Secretary General, Hamilton Deleza, concurred with Buwani, emphasizing that there is no way the strike would end if NLS management remains adamant.

The staff are also pushing for the removal of the National Librarian Grey Nyali, accusing him of various inefficiencies and abuse of office.

“This man keeps challenging staff that he cannot be fired because he is from President Peter Mutharika’s home village. He is converting institutional houses into his own personal properties without even purchasing them,” revealed the anonymous worker.

“He is abusing funds allocated by government by simply conducting unfruitful national tours just to spend the money instead of buying operational vehicles, improving infrastructure or buying books for NLS which has had no new books for more than 10 years  now and depends on donations.

Most original donors have since pulled out of supporting NLS due to management’s lack of innovativeness and vision”.

Efforts to speak to Nyali proved futile.

But the worker said there is growing disillusionment among the NLS staff and COWUMA officials who are now geared to remove Nyali.

“These guys have actually vowed to remove Nyali whether DPP wins in the forthcoming elections or a new government comes. They say Nyali is in retrogressive to the progression of labour”.

Nyasa Times understands that the Secretary for Education Justin Saidi has organised a follow-up meeting on Monday to attempt to resolve the matter.

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