Strike at Malawi’s main airport: Workers demand pay of SADC allowances

Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) employees in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe started strike, effectively reducing airport staff and forcing theDepartment of Civil Aviation (DCA) to deploy a skeleton team of its senior officers and some Malawi Defence Forces men to manage the airport as regular aviation abandoned their posts.

The workers started the strike in a row over unpaid allowances from the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Heads of State Summit  early August which are totalling to almost K22 million to cater for the 230 members of staff from the department.

Secretary General for DCA-KIA Workplace Committee Teddy Chunda said in an interview that the staff including firefighters, air traffic controllers, engineers, fuel staff and check-in personnel resolved to their respective positions after a failed peaceful attempt to resolve the matter.

“Strike action is always a measure of last resort. During the summit our working time was almost tripled because of the work load that was there. Surprisingly only four groups that work at the airport it is only Civil Aviation and Metrological Department staff who have not been paid any allowance. We hope authorities see sense,” he said.

Malawi's main airport shut down by strike
Malawi’s main airport shut down by strike

The four groups include staff from the Malawi Police Service, Immigration Department, Foreign Affairs Ministry and the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB).

Chunda explained that the K22 million is expected to cater for 13-days allowances with the lowest scheduled to get K6,000 per day, then K8,000 for the next group on the ladder, and then K15,000 and K17,000 per day for the two last most senior employees in the group.

He  said they received a letter from on September 19 informing them  that government was considering their demands but said workers observed that instead of the President’s office, who the staff members had written, it was ministry of transport responding and also that the letter had conditions while some employees from other departments got the allowances without conditions.

The Nyasa Times established that while Civil Aviation skeleton senior staff is manning the actual airport, the MDF officers are manning the firefighting equipment which some of the workers disclosed that this was so because the fire department has only three senior members who are not enough to do the job.

Chunda nonetheless expressed concern with the involvement of the soldiers in handling aeronautical services at such a civilian facility.

“This is against the International Civil Aviation regulations. The army is supposed to be called in during a crisis to provide security and not handle aeronautic services. They can have the expertise but they can do that in their barracks and not at a civilian facility,” he said.

The workers have since vowed not to return to work until their outstanding allowances are fully paid.

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