Professional drivers cancel strike, opt for dialogue

Professional Drivers Union of Malawi (PRODUM) has cancelled its planned nationwide strike over allowance-related grievances to pave the way for dialogue with the government.

PRODUM called for nationwide strike on 19 September 2022 over what they described as government failure to increase their salaries and external travel allowances.

The union has advised its member drivers to conduct some related protest action, including but not limited to go-slow convoys, roadblocks, and gatherings near government buildings in major cities.

But on Monday morning, PRODUM General Secretary Mphatso Mollen told journalists that they have decided to give dialogue a chance before proceeding to the streets.

“It’s true that we have cancelled the strike. We will be engaging with the government in a discussion on our grievances,” said Mollen.

On Saturday, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM) and Governance and Human Rights Activist, Undule Mwakasungula, questioned the motive behind the strike, suspecting there could be some politics at play.

BECAM Executive Director George Khaki wondered why the union was dragging the government into the matter as if it is their employer.

“Matters of wages and remuneration are contractual obligations between an employer and employee. In this instance, the government is not the employer for truck drivers and it is therefore misplaced that the drivers are proceeding on strike for failure by the government to adjust the drivers’ remuneration. The strike should be against their employers,” Khaki said in an interview on Saturday.

In a separate interview, Mwakasungula described the call by PRODUM for a nationwide as political aimed at using the fuel crisis to frustrate government efforts in stabilizing the crisis; hence, make government look a failure.

Mwakasungula said it is surprising that the call for the strike is coming just few days after former Professor President Peter Mutharika called for the incumbent President Dr. Lazuras Chakwera to resign and call for a caretaker government. With all these developments, many might think these moves are aimed at inciting Malawians to push government out.

“It is also surprising that other drivers from the Southern Africa Development Community are in supportive to this call by PRODUM. This must be more worrisome and a big concern to us a country. The involvement of other players in the SADC region will be unfortunate as it might be viewed as a conspiracy to fuel crisis in Malawi and this is against the SADC principles. Therefore, it is important for the government to re-engage even beyond our borders to ease this crisis,” he said.

“Whatever the scenario, what is key is for PRODUM and government to re – engage for a compromise. This is not the time to add more challenges to the fuel crisis, but for the union and all stakeholders involved contribute to the easing of the crisis.

“Whoever is further contributing to the crisis must be viewed as not wishing this country well. PRODUM and government must sacrifice and compromise for the well- being of Malawians,” added Mwakasungula.

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