Malawi’s Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala says government would soon increase the current minimum wage pegged at K317 ($0.80) per day as stipulated in the Labour Laws. This follows a two-day strike organised by shop and domestic workers at Bwalo la Njobvu in Lilongwe’s Old Town.
The strike ended Tuesday afternoon after the employees and their employers agreed on improved working conditions, including an increased minimum wage of K18 600 (about $46.50), a rise from the less than K10 000 (about $25) that most of them were getting.
In an interview after the discussions between the two sides which took almost the whole day, Makangala faulted the current government-stipulated minimum wage as the major problem in setting wages for shop and domestic workers in the country, which led to the stand-off.
Said the minister: “We will soon be meeting the Employers Association of Malawi [Ecam] and the Malawi Congress of Trade Union [MCTU] to adjust upwards the current minimum wage which is currently at K317 (about $0.80) per day or K8 242 (about $20) per month.”
Makangala could not immediately say how much government would be putting forward, saying this would have to be agreed by all stakeholders.
Among several issues, the Lilongwe shop and domestic workers were demanding an increment of 200 percent for those receiving less than K10 000 per month and 150 percent for those getting K10 000 or more per month.
The workers were also demanding housing, food and transport allowance, assistance during bereavement, regulated working hours, overtime payments, leave entitlement which also included maternity leave and provision of health and safety amenities, including toilets in the workplaces.
They also demanded improved termination of contract conditions to include severance pay as well as retirement package and repatriation of staff after retirement.
After the negotiations, the two sides signed an agreement stipulating the new minimum wage and also to have all other conditions in line with the applicable laws.
Makangala also said from now onwards, government will be ensuring that whenever there is a civil service pay increase, there should be discussions with shop owners and other employers to also adjust their salaries.
She also said government will soon hold meetings with employers in Blantyre and Mzuzu to persuade them to also implement the issues that have been agreed in the capital, Lilongwe.
Vice-chairperson of the Shop and Domestic Workers Union, Charles Saidi, said the workers were so far satisfied with the new agreements.
Spokesperson of the employers, who included Malawians of Asian origin, Chinese, Nigerians, Lebanese, Burundi and indigenous Malawian business operators, Sajid Jogee, also said the employers were satisfied with the agreement.
However, Jogee bemoaned that the two-day strike has set back most of the businesses and estimated that the total loss stands at between K70 million (about $175 000) and K80 million (about $200 000).
To resolve the stand-off, it had to take the intervention of Lilongwe district commissioner Felix Munthali, police officer-in-charge Richard Luhanga, officials from the Labour Office and Makangala who joined the discussions Tuesday morning.
The strike led to the shut-down of all shops around Bwalo la Njobvu for the whole two days.