Strike looms at Kamuzu Central Hospital over allowances

Employees at one of Malawi’s major referral hospitals, Kamuzu Central, have threatened to go an indefinite strike if authorities do not consider their demand for an increment on allowances.

The workers want an increment on allowances which they receive when they work during off-days which is popularly known as “locum”.

Some workers told Nyasa Times their patience was wearing thin with their bosses’ continued hide and seek games since the issue was brought to their attention a few months ago.

The workers are paid K1200 for an eight-hour shift and they want the rate to be revised so that it is in line with the increasing prices of products.

Kamuzu Central Hospital. Photo credit: Matthew Feldman

“Everybody knows how unbearable life has become over the last few months where basic commodities’ prices keep skyrocketing. The issue started being discussed a few months ago when nurses and allied health workers wrote management informing it of our stand on the issue but we are not being assisted. We will have no choice but to down tools because we are now losing our patience,” one nurse told Nyasa Times.

She said after getting a non convincing response the disgruntled workers met again on 5th April this year where they resolved to write directly to the Secretary for Health.

“We demanded an increase with effect from 1st May unfortunately our concerns encountered the death of our former President Bingu wa Muthalika and we understood the situation,” explained the nurse, one of the fighters for the increment.

She added: “And on 1st May we met the hospital director, Dr Alide, after he called for a meeting to discuss the issue. The director pleaded with us to carry on working while getting the K1 200 because
he assured us that the issue was being looked into.”

Dr Alide is reported to have told the workers that he was discussing the matter with the director of planning and director of nursing services and would come back to them with feedback by last week.

“Unfortunately up to now he has not come back to us and when we queried him he rudely told us that he was still consulting. We feel we are being taken for granted and we feel enough is enough and we need to take action.”

Apart from the K1200 locum allowance for an eight-hour shift, the workers also get a meager K1600 for 16-hours night shift.

But the health workers want (have proposed) an increase of just K3,500for eight-hour shift weekday), K4000 for eight-hour shift (weekend), K3800 for 16-hour weekday night shift and K5000 for 16-hours night shift.

“This is considering the current expenses one incurs everyday while coming to work while on off duty. Imagine, I stay at Area 49 and I spend K600 for transport daily and the cheapest lunch here is K350, so how much do I remain with from K1200?” complained the mother of two adding that there is also a heavy workload at Kamuzu Central unlike other hospitals.

On Monday Malawians celebrated the labour day at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe and in his speech, the Vice President Khumbo Kachali urged employers not to deliberately provoke their workers to avoid them staging industrial actions.

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