Malawian Mota-Engil workers down tools over imported workers

Work came to a halt from 6 am on Wednesday morning in Mwanza when Malawian workers for the Portuguese construction company Mota-Engil which is currently camped in Malawi’s southern district started a sit-in strike in protest against what they call Mota’s importation of foreign workers at the expense of the locals.

The atmosphere was so tense that police had to be called to provide security.

The local employees were against the importation of 100 Portuguese to be working as operators and their coming to Malawi costing jobs of 100 Malawian operators.

As if that is not enough, the locals are also protesting against the bringing in of another 200 people from South Africa to work as security guards.

Striking workers
Striking workers

“The 200 local guards have already lost their jobs and replaced by South African guards. This has annoyed local workers. We shall fight for our rights till the last drop of our blood,” said one employee in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The employee said the strike would extend to Zalewa camp on Thursday where another team of Mota Engil are working on a new railway line project passing through Malawi to Mozambique.

“We have been in discussions with management but nothing seems to work out,” the employee said.

Mota Engil official at the camp Seamons Silver refused to comment on the matter. Camp manager a Mr. Joawo also refused to comment but said they have engaged workers into discussion to resolve the labour dispute.

He expressed the hope that they will come up with “amicable solutions.”

Mota Engil has been accusing locals of stealing project materials including fuel.

Last year, the company workers also had to strike over unfair salary deal  and the hiring of the company’s machine operators from Thailand.

The company was paying the Thai workers a monthly salary K450,000 while Malawian operators gets K20,000 per month.

Mota conceded by allowing the Thais to be repatriated.

Mota-Engil sit-in
Mota-Engil sit-in

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