Lilongwe City residents should brace themselves for prolonged water shortages when Lilongwe Water Board employees start a sit-in on Wednesday to force government to give them a 30 percent pay hike.
Government and the water board have failed to agree on the increment since last month. Government proposed a 10 percent raise, but the union says it is not enough because it is way below the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha effected by government four months ago.
â€œWe initially gave government a 21-day notice, but they never responded to our needs. This forced us to give them another seven days notice, but still there is nothing. Since it seems like government has no interest in the matter, we have no option but to stage the sit-in,â€ said Water Employees Trade Union president Ipyana Kalolokesya on Tuesday.
He said the Lilongwe Water Board employees will converge on their Likuni Road offices, but they will not close taps to avoid inconveniencing people.
â€œBut once the water in the reservoir tanks is finished, then people will not have water,â€ said Kalolokesya.
Said Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala: â€œI will go there today together with the Minister of Water and Irrigation Ritchie Muheya so that we can solve the problem. In fact, right now, we are on our way to Chancellor College to solve problems of the same nature and hopefully a solution will be found.â€
Lilongwe Water Board spokesperson Trevor Phoya said management is also waiting for the ministersâ€™ visit because they are the ones who can pacify the workers.
Since government devalued the kwacha, several institutions have been rocked by threats ofÂ Â strikes.
On industrial disputes
President Joyce Banda says civil servants demanded almost 67 percent, but the government could only afford 21 percent after dialogue. She continues to say that they came to an understanding and agreement with the civil servants on this.
As a result, she takes this as her basis to argue that she can as well do that with the lecturers.
First and foremost, Her Excellency has to ask herself why there are so many industrial actions recently. What is the cause of all this? Does she know it? If she does, what preventive measures has she taken to avoid the same? I find it unfair to say that the government reached an agreement with the civil servants on the 21 percent. It is also unfair for certain quarters to describe the lecturers demand as unrealistic.
The demand made by the lecturers is realistic and I wish it were across the board if it were not for the CSTUâ€™s leadersâ€™ greed. Bingu left a 67 percent increment demand before Her Excellency devalued our currency by 49 percent. This implies that we all needed a 115 percent rise and a 113 percent demand is not far from that.
The President would like Malawians to understand the economic problems the country is facing when it is too difficult to appreciate it as she herself does not show that government lacks money. For example, last week alone, she has been to Mchinji, performing ministerial duties; Dowa and Mzuzu. I guess it is not government funds being used in all these functions.
The bottom line is not that there is no money, but we are suffering due to the devaluation which came without ways of cushioning its effects. Madam President, we cannot sit down and listen to your pleas when you and your ministers are enjoying.â€”EM