A nationwide strike by Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) employees may affect the parastatal’s ambitious targets set through its four-year strategic plan launched last October.
Admarc’s 4 600 strong workforce yesterday downed tools, pressing management to remit about K1.8 billion in pension fund arrears and implement a salary restructuring agreement which was scheduled to start in March 2019.
The strike also comes at a time Admarc has started buying soya beans in the Southern and Central regions and all bean types in the Northern Region.
Admarc Welfare Workers Union chairperson John Hassan said the workers have resolved not to return to work until all their demands are met by management.
He said: “Our resolve is that no staff will return to work unless we are assured that our pension money has been remitted. If we do not get the new salary scale this month [April] with arrears for March we are not returning to work. We are not taking any excuses.”
Hassan said management had assured them that government had approved that the parastatal borrows about K2 billion from a commercial bank to clear the pension arrears and some tax liabilities with the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) but the staff were apprehensive of management’s intentions.
By 7.30am yesterday, hundreds of Admarc staff gathered at headquarters in Limbe where they locked offices and blocked access to the place with tree branches. Some were displaying placards with messages of discontent.
Some staff had travelled from other Admarc markets in Blantyre and surrounding districts such as Thyolo, Chiradzulu, Mulanje and Mwanza.
Reports of similar action were confirmed in the Eastern Region district of Balaka, Central and Northern regions.
Admarc Staff Welfare regional representative (North) Brian Chawinga said in a telephone interview no Admarc outlet had opened in the region.
“I have received reports from all districts in the North. We are not backing down on this matter,” he said.
His Central Region counterpart Gift Mtawali also said all Admarc outlets in the region would remain closed until the matter was resolved.
The shutting down of Admarc operations comes barely three months after the parastatal set ambitious targets to, among other things, increase volumes by 15 percent by 2022.
During the unveiling of the strategic plan, Admarc chief executive officer Margaret Roka-Mauwa said the grain marketer had embarked on a drive to generate revenue from commercial businesses through strategic market alliance partnerships with buyers, venture into new product development initiatives, establish strategic business units and sustain quality products through the value chain.
Both Mauwa and Admarc spokesperson Agnes Ndovi could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri, who sits as ex-officio member on the Admarc board, said in an interview Admarc management had the keys to the issue.
“Of course, we sit in the Admarc board but these issues are to do with management,” he said.
Last year the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament warned that government’s move to bail out Admarc of its K23 billion loan in the 2017/18 Budget would be unsustainable.
In March 2018, the Economics Association of Malawi expressed worry over how Admarc ended up in a K45 billion debt yet its stock held at the time was lower in value.