Two influential public service trade unions have rejected the proposed 24 percent salary increase for civil servants, saying it does not reflect their discussions with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) ahead of the budget.
Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) expressed their sentiments during interviews with The Nation yesterday in reaction to the budget statement presented in Parliament by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe on Tuesday.
TUM secretary general Denis Kalekeni said they would not accept the proposed 24 percent, which is expected to increase the government’s wage bill to K163 billion.
In the budget statement, Gondwe said: “The recurrent budget includes an amount of K163.3 billion for wages and salaries. This is 24.4 percent higher than last financial year’s provision for wages and salaries. Honourable members will, therefore, note that this year’s average wage increase is proposed to be 24.4 percent.”
But Kalekeni described Gondwe’s proposed salary increment as childish.
Said Kalekeni: “We are not going to accept it. The percentage which we proposed was above 24 percent, but what has come out is what they [government] wanted. We did not reject it, but we gave them a counter-offer which we expected them to consider as well and strike a compromise.”
The unions had also asked the GNT, which comprises principal secretaries (PSs) for Finance and Human Resources Management, to segment the salary increase so that those in higher grades do not receive a similar percentage increment as those in lower grade.
“There has been no indication that this has been done. We will wait for the circular which the Office of the President and Cabinet will release. If it says anything less than what we agreed, we will definitely go on the streets,” Kalekeni said.
CSTU president Servace Sakala said the union would only be happy after government adopts a living wage which he admitted was not sustainable in the present state of the economy.
Said Sakala: “The civil servant should be cushioned from high inflation.”
But just like TUM, CSTU is waiting to see the distribution of the salary increment across the civil service before taking another step.
According to Centre for Social Concern, the basic needs basket for a family of four ranges between K113 000 and K130 000 per month. However, the lowest paid civil servant receives less than K55 000 monthly.
CSTU and TUM have previously said the offer by government fell short of addressing the most critical needs of civil servants and did not address the issue of harmonising remuneration in the public service as advocated by the unions.
In an interview two weeks ago, GNT’s Ben Botolo said if government were to accept CSTU’s counter-offer, the economy would collapse.