Taps dry as Lilongwe and Blantyre water workers strike over pay

Blantyre Water Board (BWB) workers have gone on strike again close to a month after they staged another one demanding 40 percent salary increment while their counterparts in Lilongwe have also closed taps to force government to give them a 30 percent pay hike.

The BWB workers, who last time disconnected water supply for the Blantyre City, have started protesting again, this time around demanding the company to add 25 percent to the 15 percent it effected last time.

During the last strike, the Blantyre Water Board management hiked the worker’s salary by 15 percent.

Speaking in an interview, one of the workers BWB Workers Union members, Tony Chiphwanya disclosed that they will only resume work if the company concedes to their demands.

Striking BWB workers strike. Photo by Jeromy Kadewere/Nyasa Times

“Our demands are that they should add 25 percent to the 15 percent they gave us last month. From the beginning, we demanded 40 percent not what they are giving us. The cost of living is escalating and yet our salaries are still the same. How do they expect us to survive,” questioned Chiphwanya.

Chiphwanya said this time around the workers would not go back to work until the remaining 25 percent is endorsed by BWB management, which is currently in discussion with the workers to end the strike, which last time left the commercial city dry.

The Blantyre Water Board staff strike comes just days after their fellow workers in Lilongwe went on strike, which is currently underway, demanding pay hike as well. Some areas in Lilongwe are currently having no water supply after the striking workers disconnected it.

But unlike the last strike in Blantyre, meanwhile, the workers have not disconnected water supply, in spite fears that they might do so and switch off power supply at Walkers Ferry in Chileka as a condition to force management to agree to their salary increment demands.

On Wednesday Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala visited LWB workers to resolve the strike, but just like what happened in Blantyre last time, the workers have agreed to go on with the strike until their demands are effective.

Lilongwe Water Board spokesperson Trevor Phoya said government pacify the workers and not management.

Government proposed a 10 percent raise, but the Water Employees Trade Union rejected it, saying it is way below the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha affected four months ago.

The country has been facing a lot of industrial strikes recently following the devaliuation of the Kwacha. Staff at publically –funded University of Malawi and Mzuzu University have also withdrawn their services  demanding a pay hike.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with an estimated 75% of people living on less than $1 a day.

Mankangala; Visited the workers

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