The Judiciary Members of Staff Union has asked the High Court of Malawi to put aside implementation of the Labour Relations Act (Amendment) Bill pending a judicial review.
Court documents indicate that the union wants the tabling and subsequent passing of the Bill that has trade unions up in arms to be declared void and that President Lazarus Chakwera should not sign it into law.
If assented to, the Bill will allow employers to deduct salaries/wages from employees if they go on strike.
But in their application to the court, the union through Kawelo Lawyers argues that contents of the Bill infringe on citizen’s rights to influence government policies enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
The union also submits that the Bill was tabled in Parliament when consultations with the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) were not yet finalised; hence, the court should declare the Bill unconstitutional and void.
Besides, the union also wants the court to declare tabling of the Bill as unconstitutional and void on the basis that there were no consultations with other employees or other unions that are not affiliated to the MCTU.
The union points out that it is not compulsory for a trade union to be registered or affiliated to the MCTU; hence, the Judiciary Members of Staff Union was not consulted on the Bill.
While declaring tabling of the Bill as unreasonable, the union also wants the court to declare that the act by government in tabling the Bill infringes on Sections 30, 31 and 40 of the Constitution.
Lawyer representing the union, Peter Minjale, referred the matter to the union’s spokesperson Andy Haliwa who said High Court Judge Mandala Mambulasa is scheduled to hear the matter on July 26.
Said Haliwa: “We have indeed filed an application to be granted an injunction and for the judicial review proceedings so the matter will come for an interpartes hearing.”
The Bill attracted controversy due to some of its provisions with numerous stakeholders, including University of Malawi Academic Staff Union, expressing their reservations.
MCTU last Thursday called off its planned nationwide demonstrations after Chakwera met its leadership and reportedly indicated he would not sign the Bill into law until thorough consultations are undertaken.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe last week, MCTU secretary general Madalitso Njolomole said they met Chakwera who assured them of his commitment not to assent to the Bill and that on their part, they are satisfied that their concerns are being addressed.
Presidential press secretary Brian Banda is also on record as having told The Nation last week that the President is keen on reviewing the matter when the Bill reaches his desk.
The President’s sentiments came barely 24 hours after Deputy Minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule told journalists in Lilongwe that the Bill was presented in Parliament after wide consultations.
She said contentious provisions such as the “no-work-no-pay” concept were approved by the International Labour Organisation.
However, MCTU officials argued that the concepts that the Bill highlights do not reflect local realities.
After the Bill was passed in Parliament on July 8, Democratic Progressive Party and United Democratic Front legislators walked out of the National Assembly in protest against the amendment Bill.