The Malawi Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (MAMLS) has given the government 14 days to resolve their grievances or else they will be forced to down tools.
The laboratory scientists are demanding promotion, saying they feel neglected as some of them have worked without promotion for more than ten years.
In a letter dated May 13, 2022, addressed to the Secretary for Local Government and copied to Secretary for Healy, the association said it has tried on several occasions to engage relevant authorities on the matter but they have not been responded to.
“The association is hereby giving you an addition of 14 days to indicate the date when we can have this joint meeting and address these issues. The following steps will be taken if this engagement meeting is not done within this stipulated period; take industrial strike and legal action. We will appreciate if the meeting is scheduled within 14 days of this letter, preferably from week beginning May 17 2022,” reads the letter in part.
It said out of about 214 laboratory staff members who have worked for more than five years under district councils, 157 (73 percent) have not been given a chance for promotion.
“It is even disheartening to note that among the 157 that have stagnated on the same position, 23 (15 percent) have even worked for more than 12 years on the same grade. As an association, we agree with our members that this is an injustice, labour exploitation and that the employer has created an unfavourable environment for productivity in health service delivery,” it reads.
Confirming the development in an interview yesterday, MAMLS Secretary-General Titus Chiwindo said the last promotion for laboratory scientists was in 2013.
“We have seen our colleagues in the health sector being promoted, there have been opportunities in the sector for people to apply for promotion but laboratory professionals are skipped. Our members have classified this as an injustice of highest order,” said Chiwindo.
According to Conditions of service, as stipulated in the Malawi Public Service Regulations (MPSR), Part V, Section 29 has set up a legitimate expectation that “A civil servant shall be eligible for promotion after he or she has served in his or her substantive post for a period of not less than four years”.
Ministry of Local Government spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza said the Ministry has received the letter and is liaising with the Ministry of Health for arrangements to meet them.
“We will get more information on their grievances when we meet them,” said Mwanza.
Commenting on the matter, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe urged authorities to act on the matter saying sit-ins are dangerous in the health sector, as they can lead to disabilities and losses of lives.
“If the sit-in happens many poor Malawians will suffer and lives of some of them may be lost. It should not reach that extent. We ask Government to have a roundtable discussion with them during which there should be an amicable understanding from both sides,” said Jobe.
He said as this is happening, there should be a deliberate proactive initiative to look into other cadres that might have been facing similar issues to address.
Jobe further said there should be a strategy to deal with the issues urging both the government and the Medical Laboratory Scientist to put the welfare of an ordinary Malawian (patient) at heart in the whole process.
According to Jobe, Medical Laboratory Scientists are very important in many aspects as they perform tests to produce reliable and precise data to support medical investigations (diagnose) in health facilities.
He said: “At the moment, when we talk about data on Covid-19, cholera, polio and typhoid fever we are talking about products of Medical Laboratory Scientists. Generally, treatment of patients can be difficult to implement without their hand.”