There was commotion at Petroda head office in Malawiâ€™s commercial city of Blantyre on Tuesday day following a strike by junior employees who have downed tools demanding a 120 percent pay rise.
The employees claim that they have not had salary increments for the past five years. They argued this is proving hard for them to survive the rising cost of living with inflation hitting 17.3 percent in May.
Of the 120 percent increase, 60 percent is to cover the recent 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha and the remainder for not increasing their salaries over the past five years.
“We spend about K400 [$1.16] on transport every day to get to work. We neither get any house allowance nor medical cover, but foreigners who work in this company get all the privileges even if they are not well educated. We do not want to steal from them so they just need to raise our salaries.
“For us, as drivers of the tankers, we get K700 [about $2.8] as an allowance when we go across the border. Actually, we get that money when we come back. How do they expect us to eat and sleep wherever we go? Nanga mu truck ndi mogona? [Do they expect us to sleep in the trucks?],” wondered one of the employees in an interview.
The employees claim that they wrote management four months ago asking for salary increments, but never got feedback.
“We wrote them again in May and they told us they were waiting for the managing director who lives in Tanzania to respond to our requests,” said another employee who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Petrodaâ€™s logistics and operations manager Harold Myaba said the salary increment issue is currently under discussion.
“Following the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha, everyone out there is complaining. People are complaining to government, to their companies that they should consider them. This development has come at a time when management was already devising what steps to take.
“So, plans to increase their salaries are already in the pipeline, but we needed to negotiate with the owners who are abroad. The problem is that the shareholders [of the company] are far apart,” he said.
When asked if they have engaged the striking employees in talks regarding what they are asking for, Myaba said the staff are trying to base the increment on the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha, but management, on the other hand, wants to see what it can do.
He, however, could not say by what percentage they will increase the salaries, arguing that there are different segments of employees who could also get different rates of increments.
Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) secretary general, Robert Mkwezalamba could not be reached as we wanted to find out if the 120 percent increase was justifiable.
Due the devaluation of the kwacha and the rising cost of living, most employees in various companies are crying for salary increase to be on par with the cost of living.