UTM students wing at the University of Malawi (UNIMA), previously known as Chancellor College, has issued a strongly-worded statement reprimanding the Tonse Alliance government for initiating amendments to the Labour Relations Bill law, seeking to restrict workers from holding a strike based on employment grievances.
The statement issued on Thursday, July 8, 2021, and signed by President of the wing, Charles Dokera and General Secretary, Chawezi Phiri, says government wants to “gradually ruin our democracy through repressive laws”.
Ironically, the UTM, is led by Republican State Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima in the Tonse Alliance government set up.
The students decry the attempts by President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera administration’s move to use the law as an instrument to oppress the workers “by giving employers much power to cut off salary to the striking workers”.
“We are extremely shocked, dazed and stunned with the actions of our government on the future of our democracy. The government has defeated us with its unreasonable and retrogressive as well as undemocratic laws it is prepared to legislate,” reads the statement in part.
The students fear that the proposed changes in the Labour Relations Law would affect them as prospective employees, who would be denied the right to stage strikes to express employment related grievances.
“We promise not to be puppets of our masters, not to be bootlickers and not handicappers. We will not be blind followers. Our political affiliation did not usurp our intellectual abilities to stand against unreasonableness,” says the statement.
However, a legal expert argues that the Labour Relations (Amendment) Act does not bans strikes.
Preferring anonymity, the lawyer argues that this is a misrepresentation.
‘The Bill does no such thing. It simply says that if you decide to strike, then beyond a number of days, the employer should not be obliged to pay you. Under the current practice, people can stay away from work forever, doing no work, and then still happily go and get their pay cheque at the end of the month.
“The Constitution guarantees the right to withdraw labour. Not the right to free wages. Just like no stranger can show up at your door stop and demand that you hand over your money to him, no one should demand wages for no work.
“The relationship between the employer and the employee is governed by contract law. This imports rights and obligations. The employee’s core duty is to work. And the employer’s core duty is to provide work and to pay for it.
“If you decide not to work, you breach your core duty under the contract and the employer has no obligation to pay you. I don’t see anything outrageous in a law making this position explicit,” he says.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :