Staff at Commuter Bus Service previously known as AXA Bus Company, which is a division of Agma Holdings, have gone for over a year and a half without pay.
Some members of staff stormed Nation Publications Limited (NPL) offices in Lilongwe on Friday to say how they are struggling to make ends meet while employees of the company, in other divisions, were celebrating the festive season with bonuses.
However, Agma Holdings Group chairperson Mark Katsonga in an interview yesterday, while acknowledging the employees’ complaints, and also that they sought his help on the matter, said the commuter bus division was sold to some members of management. He said these are now part-owners of the company, hence better placed to handle the matter.
He said he was surprised to hear complaints about salaries now when the staff lodged a similar complaint to his office over a year ago. He described the situation as unfortunate.
“I believe in empowering Malawians, and that starts with my employees. We decided to empower our staff first by giving out ownership of the various divisions to the managers. In Lilongwe, they have a new company altogether just as in Blantyre. As I explained to the members of staff, when they also appealed to me for help, we as Agma, have no control over how the managers now run the company, as they constitute part of the ownership.
“However, when I received those complaints, I was concerned and I informed the management of these companies of their concerns and need to address them,” said Katsonga.
He referred Nation on Sunday to Commuter Bus Services general manager, Innocent Khembo, who could not pick calls on several attempts.
The members of staff who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said some of their lot have been evicted for non-payment of house rentals. They cited one family which is now allegedly staying inside the bus company’s garage at Biwi in Lilongwe after being evicted.
According to the staff, while management keeps on assuring them that they will be paid soon, their children and other dependants are being kicked out of school.
“We thought it was unfair that the company’s other divisions are being paid, but not us. Imagine others even received a bonus for Christmas while we have gone a full year and a half without pay. In 2015, we could receive a salary irregularly for half a year, but in 2016, for the whole 12 months we did not receive a salary,” said one of the employees.
Those affected include drives, bus supervisors, conductors, messengers and mechanics at the garage. However, the employees said at least drivers are receiving allowances after each bus trip. n