Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has supported civil servants’ rejection of the proposed 24 percent salary increment, saying it is also stunned with the government offer.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe last Tuesday presented the 2014/15 National Budget in Parliament in which he announced the adjustment of civil servants’ wages and salaries.
But two influential public service trade unions—Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM)—rejected the proposal, arguing the raise does not reflect their discussions with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) prior to the budget and warned they would go on strike if nothing is done about it.
In an interview on Thursday, MCTU secretary general Pontius Kalichero said it was surprising that government settled for such an offer if “we compare with the existing cost of living.”
Said Kalichero: “It is unbelievable that at this time government could come up with that type of offer realising the comparative cost of living that is there on the market.
“I think time has now come for us to be talking of a living wage and government should be a benchmark for that kind of consideration because what is being talked here is not anywhere near what had been requested.”
He said the 24 percent offer, compared to what CSTU had counter-offered, was very much on the lower side and government needed to provide a reasonable figure.
However, Kalichero said the unions’ mother body also expected the increments to trickle down to the private sector to avoid unwarranted disproportions in salaries.
He also wondered why Gondwe did not mention anything on pay as you earn (Paye) tax, particularly for the lowest paid employees.
“We expected to hear what government was going to do on Paye tax and the tax-free band. That was one of the major issues forwarded for consideration, but [the minister] did not touch on it. That is of great concern for the lowest paid civil servants,” said Kalichero.
Minister of Labour and Manpower Development Henry Mussa said in an interview his office was yet to get a formal complaint about the 24 percent increment.
He, however, said everything has procedures and processes that need to be followed before thinking of going into the streets.
But Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) described the 24 percent increment as “reasonable”.
Ecam executive director Beyani Munthali said as long as the increment was within the inflation rate, there was no problem.
Explained Munthali: “Any salary increment must be within the existing inflation rate and anything above that constrains the productive capacity of the employer. And right now inflation is around 21.7 to 22 percent, so the 24 percent, much as it is on the higher side, I think is reasonable.”