MBC retrenched staffs holds vigil over perks

Tens of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) retrenched workers have started holding a vigil at the institution’s head offices in order to force management to pay them their August salaries.

The workers have resorted into holding the vigil after a meeting with management on Wednesday afternoon failed to resolve the matter. The vigil comes barely a month after the employees held another one following MBC management’s defiance to pay them their dues despite government’s directive to do so.

Government last month told the broadcaster to continue paying all retrenched staff their monthly salaries until the legal battle over the redeployment is conclusively resolved, an order the institution has refused to obey.

Demo: MBC retrenched staff. Photo by Maurice Nkawihe, Nyasa Times

On Thursday morning, the workers, majority in red and black attires, seemed unconcerned, gathered at MBC head office in Chichiri, carrying beddings-blankets and sleeping mats (mikeka)-and other items in readiness for the much anticipated vigil.

Nyasa Times crew that rushed to the scene found the workers chanting songs, marching around the institution’s offices as some of them carrying posters, tree branches and others carrying Joyce Banda’s portrait, and placards demonstrating their anger and frustration.

It was all noisy inside the MBC’s campus as the disgruntled employees sung their lungs out, poking fun at the public broadcaster’s top officials.

From a distance, one would mistake the chanting workers to some kind of organized dances based on how they display their demonstration.

In an interview, the workers vowed not to leave the premise until their salaries are paid.

“We are here until we are paid what is ours. We will be sleeping here and we will not back down, we will continue making noise just tell them (management) that we are also human and are supposed to be treated with dignity,” said the workers in an interview.

The workers explained that MBC management was reluctant to sort them out on argument that it has no money.

Last month the public broadcaster, after pressure, was forced to pay the concerned workers their July salaries using funds meant for the purchase of outside broadcasting machine.

According to the information sourced, on Wednesday, the workers’ representatives met MBC Controller of Administration and Human Resource, Leonard Mateyu and Director of Business Affairs, Levi Nkunika who is currently acting as Director General (DG) in the absences of Benson Tembo.

However, the meeting failed to resolve the matter as the workers were told to wait for a feedback from government on the issue.

“They told us to wait as they have engaged government to resolve the matter. They said there is no money for our salaries, but how come some of our friends were paid? Some of us are currently being evicted from our houses as we are failing to pay rental bills.

“And we don’t have money to pay for our children’s school fees. How do they expect us to survive when they were directed by government to continue paying us our salaries until we get our pension,” lamented Chimwemwe Tsitsi executive member for MBC’s Electronic Workers Union of Malawi (EMWUM).

Tsitsi who has been part of discussions between MBC and the retrenched workers disclosed that during the Wednesday meeting, they were told to wait for DG, Benson Tembo who is currently in Lilongwe meeting government officials on the matter.

“It’s surprising that government directive is there in black and white, and the DG Mr. Tembo even assured as that he will do all he can so that we get our money as government directed. But now we are told different story,” he said.

On Pension

On their pension, Tsitsi disclosed that they were told by MBC management will get their money by October 19th this year.

However, it has been discovered that MBC was failing to pay the pension to 300 retrenched workers who were restored by the High Court last year as it had not been remitting their contribution to Old Mutual for years.

The institution had stopped remitting pension for MBC radio workers since 2004 and for TVM since 2010, forcing Old Mutual to fail process the retrenched employees’ funds.

Our investigations revealed that the unremitted pension funds accumulated to over a million Kwacha, and government as of Friday issued a cheque of K277.7 million to bail out the broadcaster.

When called for clarification, Controller of Administration and Human Resource, Leonard Mateyu refused to comment on the matter and referred the issue to Tembo was reported to be in a meeting in Lilongwe.

“Am not authorized to comment on the matters concerning the company,” said Mateyu.

MBC is expected to pay the fired workers-who were retrenched during Bright Malopa’s regime-up to their retiring age.

In June this year, the institution paid the workers 10-month salaries after staying without pay since September last year before government directive to continue paying them until the matter currently at Industrial Relations Court is concluded.

Government through the treasury department last month directed MBC management to continue paying the staff that were retrenched for refusing to be redeployed to other government departments until they were paid their pension.

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