It never rains but pours for government as the Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) has protested a 10 percent salary hike offer barely a day after teachers threatened a nationwide strike over unpaid leave grants.
The union, which represents the bulk of the civil service, has since threatened a nationwide sit-in if government does not reconsider revising the pay hike by more than the offered 10 percent.
In an interview yesterday, CSTU general secretary Madalitso Njolomole said the union gave government time after the presentation of the budget to consider their grievances.
However, he said, it appeared the delayed response was deliberately being ignored.
Said Njolomole: “When the budget was presented [on May 19], we were not in a position to respond quickly on the proposed increment because we were still discussing with the Government Negotiating Team [GNT] on the best salary increment.
“We wrote a letter addressing the Chief Secretary on our issues, giving them an ultimatum of 21 days. They haven’t answered us up to now, this is making us lose patience.”
He said they wrote the letter on April 10 and sent a reminder on May 2 but they did not get a response after another seven days notice.
Said Njolomole: “We held a meeting with the GNT after 2nd May on the 10th [May] which, however, ended prematurely and there hasn’t been any update up until now.
“We believe that they are just employing delaying tactics so that Parliament passes the proposed 10 percent increment.”
GNT chairperson Bright Kumwembe refused to give more details on the matter, saying the issue was still under negotiations.
He said: “It is just unfortunate that the information is now being taken to the media. We are still negotiating and at this point, I can’t tell you anything to that effect.”
In his budget presentation in Parliament, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced in the proposed 2017/18 National Budget in Parliament the 10 percent salary increment to the civil servants. The minister hinted that it would be given on merit to make the public service vibrant.
Protests by civil servants to have their salaries increased refuse to die in the country. In the heat of the previous demands, President Peter Mutharika is on record as having told the civil servants not contented with packages in the public sector to quit and join the private sector or consider working in the service as a calling.
The push for a higher pay raise comes against the background of a warning by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the wage bill while strengthening tax compliance to mobilise enough domestic resources in line with the country’s goals.
Following a 15 percent pay hike for civil servants 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 2016/17 National Budget.
A survey by the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) conducted last year revealed that Malawians were sailing through tough times following the weakening of the currency, a development that has pushed the cost of living up and the civil servants are the biggest victims. n