Civil servants in Malawi on Thursday presented their petition to the National Assembly with a demand that during this meeting, the House should pass the Public Service Remuneration Board Bill and also extend the mandate of the board to include determining salaries for the Cabinet.
Presenting the petition to one of the Members of Parliament (MPs), Nicholas Dausi of Mwanza Central, Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) president Eliah Kamphinda Banda also demanded that the MPs should consider reducing the allocation for the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) to increase the salaries for the civil servants.
Kamphinda Banda, who expressed concerns about huge disparities in wages among departments for workers of similar qualifications and grades, said apart from ensuring equity of salaries within the civil service, the union would also want to see ministerial salaries being determined in a transparent manner.
He said: “As civil servants we want the honourable members to debate this Bill thoroughly, ensure that the board does not become a white elephant but has teeth and a mandate to make decisions as opposed to consult and propose.
“We demand that the Bill is passed during this [meeting] and all remunerations and conditions of service of all public officers including the Cabinet are determined by the board.”
Kamphinda Banda observed that there were unbearable sharp disparities of salaries within the three arms of government and other government agencies leading to a situation whereby a “driver gets more salary than an engineer or a clerical officer pocketing more than a medical doctor.”
He observed that the current system has forced some professionals such as lawyers to abandon their positions in the mainstream civil service and opt to join other agencies such as the Law Commission, Ombudsman, Malawi Human Rights Commission and Malawi Institute of Management.
Kamphinda pleaded that the National Assembly is the last hope for the civil servants to have the issue of pay inequalities resolved.
He also said it was sad that in the current budget civil servants have only been given 8.96 percent increment as reflected in the wage bill that has moved from K112 billion (about $280m) to K131 billion (about $327.5m).
Kamphinda Banda said the union proposes that Fisp allocation, which is at K60 billion, be reduced to meet the civil servants demands, arguing that it was the same civil servants who buy expensive fertiliser for relatives who often do not access the coupons in the programme.
Dausi, in his remarks after receiving the petition, said that following the parliamentary standing orders, he would go through the petition before presenting it to the whole House for possible deliberation.
CSTU was joined by Teachers Union of Malawi and the National Organisations of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (Nonm).
The process to have the board, was on Tuesday halted after Parliament deferred the Bill proposing introduction of the board after observations that the Bill only gives the board consultative role and not powers to make decisions for the civil servants salaries.