MBC retrenched workers pens JB, bids farewell

Over 300 workers at Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) who were retrenched last year have finally accepted their fate and bid farewell to the institution as well as government after pocketing their pension benefits.

The workers have since written President Joyce Banda expressing their farewell as well as some issues that characterised their relationship with MBC; and throughout the period they have been jostling with the public broadcaster over the controversial retrenchments.

In a 12 paged letter addressed to President Joyce Banda and copied to Vice President, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chairperson of MBC Board of Governors, Malawi Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Anti-Corruption Bureau Director, Public Affairs Committee Chairperson among others, the workers decried unfair treatment they were subjected to prior and after being retrenched.

The workers who have been paid their pension benefits by Old Mutual on Thursday this week, questioned government’s stance and how it handled the whole retrenchment saga before asking the President to intervene on the matter and ensure that such issues should not occur in future.

MBC: Resigned to their fate

“The letter has been addressed to various stakeholders, including you Your Excellency, because we have reached a stage whereby we are no longer sure about who/what government is, as instructions concerning our fate kept on contradicting each other from one quarter of government to another, throughout the fourteen months period we had stayed on at MBC/TVM as retrenched members of staff, fighting for justice over procedures in which the merger was done.

“We challenged the procedures in which the merger was executed because we had identified a number of anomalies. First of all, contrary to what we were told before the merger, no liquidator was appointed to dissolve TVM and subsequently have its assets acquired by MBC.

“In addition, the process was conducted by our own managers, who were bound to be biased, particularly considering the fact that just after the merger was announced, most MBC managers were sent on forced leave and eventually had their positions taken over by TVM managers,” reads part of the letter signed by Augustine Lubani president of MBC workers union among other retrenched executive members.

The workers wondered why neither a professional consultant nor officials from the OPC was involved to ensure that the merger and MBC restructuring process was impartially and professionally conducted, arguing this led to late payments of pension to affected employees.

They have accused MBC management for distorting information relating to the retrenchments in order to favour their own people who were supporting government in their duties.

“No wonder no pensions were disbursed upon retrenching us and those with loans with either the corporation or banks (with MBC/TVM as a guarantor) went home empty-handed, despite agreements that in the face of a situation like ours, such loans would be recovered from pension benefits not severance pay. Furthermore, it is an open secret that qualifications, experience and performance did not matter when matched with one’s perceived political affiliation and personal relationships with the top managers involved in the process of merging the two entities and restructuring MBC.

“To cover up, the managers deliberately sent wrong information to the OPC, particularly in terms of qualifications of employees. For instance, a graduate could have MSCE or JCE indicated as the highest qualification that he/she holds. On the other hand, those earmarked to remain could be indicated as highly qualified, in some cases in reference to short-term courses that people usually attend as part of on-the-job training. In a nutshell, our managers lied under oath and gave wrong information to public servants, both of which are criminal offences,” further reads the letter.

On Pension Benefits

The employees have expressed dissatisfaction on how Old Mutual calculated their pension benefits, arguing the company was punishing them for the wrongs of their corporate masters.

“Our expectation was that Old Mutual would calculate our pension bonuses to the tune of investment interests they could have generated if remitted on time so that the whole sum is shouldered by MBC, which was responsible for this mess. Why should you punish the poor employee, whose salary was deducted in time for the contributions’ remittance to the pension fund administrator?

“If you claim the 7.5 percent bonus rates are universal for all workers on Old Mutual pension fund (as we are told by MBC’s administration department officers), where is there justice in keeping this information a secret instead of informing the concerned individuals and indeed the Malawi nation in advance so that they should get psychologically prepared, bearing in mind that some of them would be reaching their respective retirement ages soon?,” questioned the employees in the letter.

MBC retrenched some staff late last year after they refused to be deployed to other government departments where they were expected to fill position not befitting their qualifications, experience and performance.

Among the retrenched members of staff some were redeployed to various government ministries include those with a Masters Degree and was deployed to Blantyre Rural District Education Manager’s office to serve as a clerical officer at salary Grade M, with a salary of around K15,000.00 a month.

MBC and the workers have been fighting in court until the High Court ordered the reinstatement of the workers, however this did not work as the public broadcaster kept on sidelining the said employees such as not paying them their monthly dues.

This created drama as the affected employees for several; months have been holding vigils and demonstrations in demand for their salaries until last month government ordered MBC to stop paying the workers until they get their pension, which they have.

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