What was organised as a meeting to strategise on a possible nationwide strike by civil servants in Lilongwe yesterday ended in a celebration as government committed to increase salaries by more than the proposed 10 percent.
In an address to the civil servants at Capital Hill yesterday, hours after meeting the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) on Tuesday night, Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) general secretary Madalitso Njolomole said yesterday government has agreed to increase the wage bill with K2 billion.
He said: “After a heated debate, they first offered to add K1 billion to the wage bill which we rejected. They later added another K1 billion, making it K2 billion, which translates to K72 000 salary for the least paid civil servant.”
Njolomole, who told The Nation soon after the Tuesday meeting that there was another deadlock in the negotiations, said he was noncommittal then because the GNT said the proposed salary increase was on condition that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agrees to the demand.
He said the CSTU leadership was not comfortable with the verbal assurance and demanded a commitment letter and a circular from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as salary increments in the public sector are preceded by circulars.
During yesterday’s meeting, the civil servants asked the union leaders to discuss with the GNT about producing the circular by Tuesday as a prerequisite that government will live by its commitment to increase their salary.
Through CSTU, the members asked for a consideration of the least paid civil servant from a K60 000 basic salary to at least K75 000—about 25 percent—or face a nationwide strike.
But during the meeting between CSTU and GNT on Tuesday, government committed to give the least paid civil servant K72 000, representing about 20 percent.
According to a communiqué jointly signed by GNT chairperson Bright Kumwembe and Njolomole, the negotiations will continue on the adjustment of civil servants salary depending on the country’s economic performance.
Reads the communiqué in part: “The two sides have agreed that the minimum entry point for the lowest paid civil servant be increased to K72 000 from K60 000 per month, and that civil servants in grades K, L and M be increased reasonably.”
Initially, government proposed a 10 percent increment that Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced in his 2017/18 National Budget Statement in Parliament.
However, economist Henry Kachaje has described government’s tendency to act whenever a strike happens or looms as not good.
He asked government to find a lasting solution to address the salary issues.
Yesterday, Kumwembe refused to comment on the developments, telling The Nation he was not the official government spokesperson. He referred the matter to the OPC.
The civil servants’ push for higher pay rise comes against the background of a warning by the IMF on the wage bill while strengthening tax compliance to mobilise enough resources in line with the country’s development goals.
Following a 15 percent pay hike for the public sector last July, the public sector wage bill rose by K22 billion to K264 billion which, according to Treasury, was 23.3 percent of total expenditure in the K1.3 trillion 2