Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) says President Peter Mutharika’s verbal pledge to assign a high-powered team to resolve their differences with Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) cannot be taken seriously at face value.
TUM says it will go ahead with its planned nationwide strike on May 9 2016 because government has not addressed substantive issues in their April 14 2016 petition.
Chauluka Muwake, TUM executive member and Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) president, said this in an interview on Sunday on the sidelines of this year’s International Labour Day celebrations at Masintha ground in Lilongwe where Mutharika was the guest of honour.
TUM’s outstanding grievances against MoEST include issues of promotion and salary adjustments of teachers, failure by MoEST to pay leave grants to secondary school teachers for the 2015/16 financial year expiring on June 30 and delayed payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers.
In his address, Mutharika said he would assign Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa and Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano to meet the union leadership over teachers’ grievances.
But the President did not indicate when the meeting shall take place.
Reacting to the President’s statement, Muwake said Mutharika’s verbal assurance was not enough to persuade TUM to call off the strike.
He said: “We are not relenting. We are going ahead with the nationwide strike planned for May 9 2016 unless government resolves our grievances before that day.
“Verbal assurance that the President will send Chief Secretary to Government and the Minister of Education to meet us is not enough; so the strike is on unless government resolves our grievances before that day.”
In his address, Mutharika appealed to all workers to “let dialogue prevail in matters of wage negotiations”.
He said his government “has an open door policy and is ready to discuss with all concerned stakeholders on issues of minimum wage”.
Said the President: “As government, we have an obligation to balance between the needs of workers and the performance of companies within an economic environment. This can mean conflicting demands. It is not easy to satisfy the needs of all parties. But in every negotiation, all parties must be willing to compromise. That is the cardinal principle of negotiation.”
With a membership of about 37 000 teachers in both public primary and secondary schools out of the estimated teacher population of 78 000, TUM boasts the largest constituency.
In the petition dated April 14 2016, TUM gave MoEST up to May 9 to resolve teachers’ grievances or face a sit-in by all primary and secondary school teachers.
Last week, MoEST and TUM officials failed to agree on a number of issues the union presented to the ministry.