A meeting between the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and its members in Lilongwe yesterday nearly degenerated into chaos after union leaders failed to disclose how much they were demanding from government after rejecting the proposed 24 percent increment in the 2014/15 National Budget.
Civil servants, mainly from within Capital Hill, gathered around 10am to wait for an address from the CSTU leadership on the progress of the talks with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) on salary harmonisation within the civil service and progress on talks about an increment.
But an otherwise peaceful gathering was disturbed when CSTU president Servace Sakala would not disclose the percentage the union was demanding from government to avoid jeopardising ongoing talks.
“Mwadya chibanzi [you have been silenced],” some civil servants were overheard shouting.
Sakala’s efforts to quell the situation by mentioning that they had asked government to increase the wage bill from the proposed K163 billion to K170 billion to cater for the lowest paid grades in the civil service who include teachers and police officers, did not satisfy the civil servants.
It took the intervention of CSTU treasurer Joseph Mdambo and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) general secretary Denis Kalekeni to relent and disclose that the unions wanted the lowest paid civil servant to get at least K85 000, which is equivalent to the salary of a driver in the Judiciary.
Said Kalekeni: “After they made offers and we made counter-offers, what we asked for was something above 50 percent, but we were surprised to hear the Minister of Finance say we would get 24 percent.”
The explanation from Kalekeni and the CSTU treasurer placated the civil servants who proceeded to pose questions to the union which comprised advice that they stand firm and not relent in the fight for better salaries for civil servants.
In his address, Sakala brandished copies of a newspaper story and manifesto of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which he said promised to change the situation of the civil servants.
The unions are expected to meet with the GNT to finish negotiations, but their demands risk not being absorbed into the budget as Parliament startedthe Committee of Supply on on Wednesday.