- Boards claim OPC open to negotiation
- Goodall puts foot down
Representatives of the country’s five water boards have claimed that a meeting with the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) hinted at the possibility of allowing an across-the-board pay hike, but Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has put his foot down.
In an interview yesterday, Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) chief executive officers Alfonso Chikuni, speaking on behalf of the five water boards, confirmed a meeting with representatives from OPC and Treasury on the issue of salary reviews in the face of a pay hike freeze in parastatals owing to a bad economic environment.
He said: “Yes, we did have a meeting with the chairperson of Statutory Boards and representatives from the OPC and Treasury. We are considering the possibility of unfreezing [allow for flexibility on] pay hikes, hence our position to maybe reduce the proposed increment, as reflected in the budget.
“We have not agreed how low we should go, but all the CEOs, in all these five water utility companies, have gone back to their employees to report on what transpired and we are hopeful for another meeting.”
Two weeks ago, the country’s five water utilities—LWB, Blantyre Water Board (BWB), Northern Region Water Board (NRWB), Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) and Central Region Water Board (CRWB)—gave government a 14-day ultimatum to offer them a 20 percent across-the-board pay hike or face unspecified consequences.
Their reaction followed Gondwe’s announcement in Parliament that an increment statutory corporations (SCs) or parastatals proposed would not be implemented in view of a poor economic situation in the country.
Through a letter reference number C1/01/08/02 dated June 14 2016 circulated to all board chairpersons and chief executives of parastatals, comptroller of SCs Zangazanga Chikhosi advised the organisations to hold their proposed increment in the 201617 financial year.
In an earlier interview, Water Employees Trade Union of Malawi (Wetum) president Tony Chitimatima Chiphwanya said they believed government would not allow their grievances to disrupt water supply and that they would reach an amicable solution.
Government had earlier allowed the water boards to give junior workers a pay hike, but the union leadership wanted an increment to apply across-the-board.
Yesterday, Gondwe said Treasury will not give the utility companies a pay hike, because such a raise was not budgeted for.
In an interview in Lilongwe, the minister stressed that the economy cannot accommodate an unplanned salary increase.
Said Gondwe: “We are not going to increase. There is no question of consideration. We told everybody that increment is only for junior staff, and we are not changing this. This is a final decision.”
On why OPC was engaging the water boards in discussions over salary revision possibilities given their uncompromising stand on the matter, the minister said the OPC was merely being diplomatic.
Initially, Treasury announced that it would only effect a 15 percent pay hike for junior civil servants but last week The Nation established that an across-the-board pay hike had been effected, pushing the wage bill up by K22 billion.
This came after Gondwe, in the 2016/17 National Budget Statement read in Parliament on May 27 this year, proposed an additional K19 billion to cater for salary adjustments and new recruitments, but the civil servants negotiated an additional K2.5 billion.