Malawi President Joyce Banda on Monday failed to reach a compromise with nurses and midwives on the 14-day ultimatum to resolve grievances, including a salary increase for the health workers.
Barely minutes after meeting the President at Sanjika Palace in Malawi’s commercial city of Blanyre, representatives of the nurses and midwives vowed to down tools if their issues are not addressed by February 26.
National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (Nonm) president Jonathan Abraham Gama said the President, who addressed other issues on the spot, did not address the thorny issue of salary increment and opted not to comment on it.
Said Gama: “What this means is that our 14-day ultimatum still stands. The ultimatum expires on February 25 and come February 26, all nurses and midwives in government hospitals will join the civil servants’ strike.
“We will arrange skeleton staff in all hospitals to take care of emergency cases. The pertinent issue we had was that of salaries and we wanted the President to address it there and then, but she did not.”
Gama, however, said the door was still open for negotiations.
On the meeting on Monday, Gama said the President has issued a directive that starting from that day, all nurses would be trained as State registered at diploma level. Previously, some nurses were being trained at technician level.
Gama said the President, who also did not address the nurses’ allowance issue which is subjected to taxation by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), has assured that she would address the issue of houses for nurses.
The Nonm president said on the issue of long overdue promotions, Banda ordered the Health Service Commission to start considering the promotions.
Ironically, as Nonm executive was meeting with the President from morning until around midday, health workers at four district hospitals had already abandoned work to force government to increase their salaries.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali, in an interview on Monday, confirmed his office received reports of district hospitals that have joined the civil servants strike. The hospitals included Chikhwawa, Dedza, Nkhotakota and Ntcheu.
In the education sector, chairperson of primary schools in Blantyre, Innocent Banda, said in an interview all schools in Ndirande Zone had joined the strike on Monday and declared they would continue until their demands for salary increment were met.
The Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) is on record to have said its members were not going to join the strike.
However, on Monday TUM said it met the CSTU leadership and agreed to work together in the fight for improved conditions of service for all civil servants.
“It has been agreed that the planned march scheduled for Wednesday 20 February to deliver a petition to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) be organised and conducted jointly,” reads the statement in part.
In the statement, TUM also advises all teachers in the country to put their tools down and get in constant touch with their respective district, division and national executive leaders for direction.