16 October 2017

Malawi: MCTU Appeals to Government for Minimum Wage Enforcement

Blantyre — Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has appealed to the Ministry of Labour to put in place monitoring mechanisms to ensure employers comply with government laws and policies such as that of minimum wage for employees.

Recently, Malawi News Agency (Mana) was approached by employees from an indoor cleaning company (name withheld) who were fired for protesting a K18, 000 salary per month.

This was backed by a snap survey around most businesses and companies around the commercial city which pay their workers below the minimum wage.

The current minimum wage set by government is K25, 000 per month which was recently raised from K19, 000 per month.

Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, one of the workers who were fired from the company, Syceria Lifa, said she felt her labour rights had been violated because all she wanted was the company to pay her in line with government's laws but this cost her job.

Commenting on the issue, MCTU General Secretary (GS), Dennis Kalekeni, said when government introduces a new law, it has to put in place different mechanisms to ensure that the law is followed.

Kalekeni added that the Constitution of Malawi gives power to the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development to monitor and enforce the laws regarding labour relations such as the minimum wage law.

He, however, said this requires putting in place proper monitoring mechanisms to enforce the law.

"The problem which we have is lack of monitoring mechanisms. It seems the Ministry of Labour is incapacitated to conduct thorough checks and monitoring so that when a law has been put in place everybody should comply," said Kalekeni.

He therefore appealed to government to ensure it puts in place all the tools necessary for the ministry to conduct monitoring exercises as well as enforce the set laws and policies.

Kalekeni further called on workers in the country who are receiving their salaries not in line with the minimum wage, to go to MCTU so that such employers are taken to task since non-compliance to these laws is criminal in nature.

Commenting on the matter through a questionnaire, Public Relations Officer (PRO) in the Ministry of Labour, Christina Mkutumula, said as a ministry, they make follow ups and encourage people to report any violations of labour laws including issues of minimum wage.

She added that there are institutionalized measures the ministry follows in order to make sure labour laws such as the minimum wage are being followed.

"Some measures involve conducting labour inspections at workplaces and civic educating both employers and employees, including the general public, on issues of labour.

"In extreme cases, issues are referred to the industrial relations court and trade unions which play a crucial role," said Mkutumula.

She said due to tough economic conditions, some small scale businesses, mostly in the informal sector and individual employers fail to generate enough money to pay their workers the minimum wage.

The PRO said despite the tough economic conditions, the ministry advises that employers employ reasonable numbers of workers or retrench their many workers to manageable numbers.

She said the majority of employers in Malawi comply with the minimum wage but the problem lies in the informal sector, including the domestic setting.

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