The Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) yesterday expressed reservations with Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe’s announcement of modest salary increment for low ranked junior servants , arguing the 15 percent increment is not what they asked for from government.
Presenting his budget statement for 2016/17 financial year on Friday, Gondwe said government will effect an average highest 15 percent pay hike for junior civil servants.
But Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) secretary general Dennis Kalekeni yesterday said the announced increment means more misery for the majority of teachers.
“It is clear that cost of living has gone up so expensively and provisional charges for utility services, including from government, show escalation of the cost of living. We cannot afford basic amenities, transport and food. The percentage of the increment and the cost of commodities is a mismatch. Secondly, the increment just focuses on lower grades, those in upper grades need to have the value of their salaries protected, too, because it is deteriorating.
“As TUM, what we could have loved is an overhaul of the whole salary system so that inflation and the pay are matched, especially for teachers. We need to review their salaries. We are now going to have a situation where teachers will be imparting knowledge to the minds of other people’s children, but cannot send their own to our expensive universities,” said Kalekeni.
But in an interview, CSTU general secretary Madalitso Njolomole, whose union has been in discussions with the government negotiation team on better perks, said though he welcomed the increment for lowly paid workers, there was nothing more to bring smiles on workers’ faces.
Njolomole said following a series of meetings with government on the increment, they expected more than the 15 percent average highest salary hike announced.
“It is not what we asked for, but as a union we should say we have been following how the country’s economy is functioning. We are going through a tough time—negotiating through high inflation, which has caused souring prices; everybody is struggling. At the same time, we also realise that even our government is facing through the same financial difficulties and struggling to finance most of its programmes,” said Njolomole.
He said the union will continue engaging the government negotiating team to ask Treasury to revise the figures and consider middle and high-ranking officers who have been ignored for the second consecutive increment.
He expressed optimism that Parliament could also push Gondwe to revise the figures upwards so that civil servants receive a substantial hike despite the pressure on the budget.
“The focus has been to help all civil servants get increments due to the high inflation. The economy is bad, but we are saying we, as civil servants should not be the losers. We are delighted for the lowest paid workers, but the battle continues so that every civil servant goes home with a respectable package,” said Njolomole.
Gondwe on Friday said the economic environment in the country means tightening the belt in spite of the pressure for increased salaries.
“I would also like to discourage what has emerged as a persistent culture of demanding more and more of the limited Government resources among the leaderships of some of our public institutions, through enhanced conditions of service. These demands are increasingly becoming insensitive to the economic depression that the country is passing through and, therefore, unpatriotic,” said Gondwe.
Highlighting the extent of the economic woes, Gondwe uncharacteristically extended criticism to high bonuses private sector executives are enjoying at a time; he argues, the nation should be spending more on investment.
“In addition, the payment of Western-style bonuses to top executives in the private sector must be a major Government concern, because it entails a waste of resources that could have been re-invested productively. It also worsens income inequalities, and creates disincentives in other equally important sectors of the economy,” he said.
Gondwe’s K1.1 trillion budget, among others, prioritises spending on Agriculture, which has received a lion’s share K198 billion, Education has K147 billion whereas Health has received K95 billion. n