Malawian Airlines management yesterday stopped its staff from staging a strike following pay disputes, describing the proposed industrial action as illegal and unjustifiable.
While the employees are demanding an average of 15 percent pay hike, the management only approved a five percent increase in this financial year.
This did not please the employees who then planned to go on strike, a development that could have affected the airline’s operations.
But the company has served the employees, through their workers union, with an injunction obtained from the Industrial Relations Court in Lilongwe on October 4.
A letter from Malawian Airlines human resource manager, which this reporter has seen, states that the strike was ill-conceived and that it was against the country’s labour laws.
Reads the letter in part: “It is against this background that the company sought the intervention of the court on the matter and on October 4, the court upon hearing both the union representatives and the company, ordered that the strike should not be implemented on grounds that it was illegal.”
In a letter dated July 31 addressed to the employees, the airlines chief executive officer Hailemelekot Mamo said the company has been operating at a loss as a result of high operating costs and low fare base.
“Though the company is loss making, it will continue to recognise its employees’ contribution in the positive development. Management has hence approved a five percent increment across the board,” reads the letter.
The employees have been asking for salary increment in segments, including 20 percent for those in the wage range of K100 000, 15 percent for those in the range of K250 000 and 10 percent increment for those above K250 000.
According to Transport and General Workers Union regional organiser MacDonald Chuma, workers are frustrated with the development because they have been holding negotiations on salary increment with the company’s management since 2017.
He added that the two parties settled for 10 percent hike across the board in 2017, which was deferred to 2018 but never happened, forcing the union in May this year to report the dispute to Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development to intervene.
Chuma said since then, the two teams have been meeting but never agreed on salary restructuring.
“We have exhausted all the necessary measures; and the strike is our last resort. But we have been served with an injunction and given 21 days to discuss our grievances with management,” he explained.
This is not the first time the airline employees have threatened to down tools as they also did the same in May 2017.
Ethiopian Airlines owns 49 percent while Malawi government owns 51 percent stakes in the company.