Some institutions, mainly security firms, are violating the approved minimum wage regulation without facing any punishment despite hundreds of the victimised workers struggling amid rising cost of living.
In December last year, government adjusted the minimum monthly wage from K35 000 to K50 000, effective January this year, to address prevalent poor wages facing a majority of workers in the country.
But a study by the Textile, Garments Leather and Security Services Union (TGLSSU), which is affiliated to the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU), has exposed 26 security firms that are under-paying their workers.
Undocumented testimonies and recorded evidence point to failure by some institutions to abide by the new rules.
A letter which TGLSSU has filed to the Ministry of Labour, reporting employers that are not meeting the requirements, shows that most of these companies are based in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba.
“We write to inform you that the below mentioned companies are paying below minimum wage. We have tried to talk to them but to no avail. We, therefore, write your office for assistance,” reads the letter dated April 16 2021, which we have seen.
The blacklisted companies include well-known security companies such as Kamu Guard Services.
In an interview, MCTU general secretary Charles Mikundi said they want government to enforce the law as workers are unable to manage their lives with the low perks.
“Most of these companies are paying K30 000 per month. That’s 26 working days. And, on top of that, they are not paying daily overtime as per the law,” he said.
Confirming his firm’s failure to meet the wage requirement, Kamu Guard Services managing director Charles Kanyoza attributed to clients’ refusal to pay more than the contracts they signed.
“After the new law was passed, we informed all our clients that we are raising the cost of hiring our services, but they refused. Some of the clients are government institutions—the same government that adjusted the minimum wage. Under those circumstances, how do they think we will generate funds to increase the wage bill?” he asked.
Ministry of Labour spokesperson Christina Mtukumula insisted that government has not received any reports of the minimum wage violation.
“Trade unions are yet to provide us with details of the companies not adhering to minimum wage,” she said.
Hotels, Food Processing and Catering Workers Union of Malawi general secretary Shakespeare Sesani also said their industry is haunted by non-adherence to the new minimum wage.
“This is mostly prevalent in lodges and restaurants,” said Sesani, further describing the poor wages as detrimental to the well-being of the workers.
In an interview recently, a worker at one of the lodges in Nkhotakota confided in this newspaper that his monthly salary is K20 000.
In a response to our questionnaire,Employers’ Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) executive director George Khaki said: “Unofficially we have heard that some sectors of the economy are indeed not complying with the provisions. But we have not done a formal study.”
“As an employers’ representative body we urge all employers in the country to abide by all laws which include the paying of the new minimum wage. There is no excuse for not complying with the law,” he said.
Khaki was, however, quick to defend his association members saying: “All Ecam members are complying with the new minimum wage requirements.”