Malawi Government which is currently working tooth and nail to quench the raging fires following a spate of strikes from several of its departments, has said that the striking staff from the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) will not get their December pay as they are deemed to have been absconding work.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Goodall Gondwe, however, was quick to point out in an interview that the decision has been made “somewhere” and not from his office and was just communicating to the striking workers.
“I have been told that the ACB staff are going back to work tomorrow (Thursday). Therefore, those that will not report for duties will not get their December salaries because I am told the strike is illegal,” he said.
However, a labour law lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College Mauya Msuku has dismissed the threat saying the law does not favour monetory punishment to resolve a dispute between an employer and the employees.
Msuku said if anything government’s warning is illegal and not the strike.
“Withholding of wages or salaries is monetory punishment which is illegal. The law only permits to withhold wages when there are damages caused by employees or one has absented himself or herself from work without reasons,” he said.
Msuku said employees who are conducting a strike, which has risen from a dispute and that all procedures are followed is not illegal, therefore their wages cannot be withheld.
The ACB staff are on strike demanding 70 percent salary hike after rejecting a 10 percent proposed increase.
The dispute resulted into police sealing the ACB offices on Tuesday only to be forced to open them on Wednesday after the country’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika intervened.
The President’s order overturning the sealing of the offices in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba came barely hours after a legal scholar at Chancellor College, Mwiza Nkhata, and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), faulted the decision as lacking legal basis.
The ACB staff are meeting Thursday to discuss the next course of action.
Malawi government is faced with a spate of strikes and threats of similar actions from several of its departments.
Just this week a meeting between the country’s doctors and nurses on one hand and government officials hit a snug 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 after government plea to put the impending strike on hold until the economy improves fall on deaf ears.
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 while 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 following the ongoing donor aid freeze.
The country’s judicial system is also 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.
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 :