Workers yesterday commemorated World Labour Day with calls to government to address inequalities in the labour sector, including violence against women, salary disparities and pension remittances.
During the event in Blantyre, Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) president Luther Mambala asked government to, among others, sort out gaps in minimum wage and tax-free bracket redress challenges associated with expatriates.
He said: “As Malawian workers, we want government to hear us and raise the minimum wage further to at least K50 000. By doing this, workers will be able to have some increased disposable incomes.
“Our expectation is that government will also ensure that some fake expatriates should not take up jobs that belong to Malawians.”
The MCTU president also called on government to ensure that women are protected from workplace abuses and that all perpetrators are severely punished.
Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia, in her address to the workers who gathered at Njamba Freedom Park, said government had taken notice of the concerns.
“Government has taken note of the concerns starting from women facing violence in the place of work to non-remittance of pension funds. Salary disparities are also a critical matter. These are serious matters government is trying to address,” she said.
Ironically, a list of non-compliant entities on remittance of pension funds the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) released recently also includes some government ministries, departments and agencies with statutory corporations featuring prominently.
Chiumia, however, said government was also working on increasing opportunities for youths to get into employment in both formal and informal sectors.
This year’s Labour Day commemoration is coming amid tension and complaints from public officers against government.
This week about 4 600 workers at the State-owned Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) laid down tools in protest of pension funds non remittances and salary disparities. About K1.8 billion is owed by Admarc since it last remitted the pension funds in 2015.
In recent months, workers at the Malawi Prisons Service (MPS), Malawi College of Health Sciences (MCHS), part-time nurses in district hospitals and public teachers have all lodged labour complaints against government.
While calling for resolve to increase employment opportunities, Mambala estimated that only half of the country’s 18 million people have access to some form of work, with 87 percent in the informal sector.
As the country goes to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, political parties have been criss-crossing the country selling their manifestos to voters.
In their manifestos, all the major political parties are promising to create more and decent jobs for Malawians if elected into government.
For instance, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says it will scale up investments by $3.5 billion by 2024 and this will increase employment by 22.5 percent (more than 1.6 million decent jobs in its next five years).
“Cape Maclear will be connected by air, water, road and rail systems and this will create a minimum of 40 000 jobs,” reads the DPP manifesto titled Sustaining a People-centred Government.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) says its goal is to create decent jobs in excess of 500 000 every two years.
Primarily, it says this will be possible because of the introduction of a National Youth Service (NYS) and Jobs4Youth Programme that will offer vocational skills training to youths.
In its 72-paged manifesto, the UTM Party says it is committed to creating one million jobs in its first year in office to add to the 5.5 million Malawians who are already in employment.
The party claims this will be possible through creation of mega or anchor farms, promotion and support of micro, small and medium sized entrepreneurs and establishment of a K40 billion loan facility, among others.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) says in its 56-paged blue print it will “strive to create sustainable and meaningful jobs particularly for the youth.”
The party explains this will be possible through establishment of opportunity centres, which will offer, among others, integrated services for youths.
This year’s Labour Day was conducted under the theme: Addressing Inequalities in Employment in Achieving Decent Work For All in the Future of Work.
The commemorations started with a solidarity parade in the streets of Blantyre where some women made testimonies of how they were abused in their work places.
The women decided to speak out to create more awareness about the problem that is generally swept under the carpet.
Various organisations and companies mounted their pavilions at the venue of the commemoration where they showcased their products and services in line with the theme of the celebrations.