Barely two weeks after the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) revised upwards fuel pump prices, the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) is pushing for the revision of the minimum wage to match what it calls the current economic situation.
MCTU Secretary general Denis Kalekeni argued that the fuel pump price increase has led to the rise of transport fares and other essential commodities pushing workers at a disadvantage.
In 2017, MCTU suggested a minimum wage increase of K40 000 from about 19 000 per month but after negotiations, government trimmed it to K25 000 per month.
“The current economic environment is not favourable to workers (consumers), prices of essential commodities such as water, electricity and fuel have escalated and it’s sad that the monthly income remains the same. This has also triggered an increase in price of other commodities on the market, purchasing power has been diluted and people are finding it difficult to survive,” he said.
While maintaining that K40 000 would be viable for a general increment, Kalekeni suggested the need for Malawi to move away from a fixed minimum wage and adopt a sectoral minimum wage to make sure workers are paid according to the type of work and the profits made.
Said Kalekeni: “We should not be fixing a general minimum wage because jobs are different. Employers in jobs that are more-risky and make a lot of profits should be paying their workers more.”
He hinted that with the current economic environment, employers have no option but to ensure their workers’ survival by enabling them meet the cost of living which is a determining factor on the revision of minimum wage.
“Before you employ someone think of how you are going to pay that person so that they are able to meet at least basic human amenities, if you can’t, don’t employ them,” he said.
He bemoaned corruption in both public and private sector which he said is pushing donor partners away thereby straining the country’s economy and putting the burden on the end user consumer.
Asked on his take on the suggestion, labour commissioner in the Ministry of Labour Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Hlalerwayo Nyangulu said he could not comment much as MCTU has not yet officially written the ministry on the need for the revision in the minimum wage.
The ministry revised the minimum wage for all workers from K787.70 to K962.00 per day effective July 1, 2017.
The decision which followed wide consultation with MCTU and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) came after parliament passed a bill to revise the minimum wage.
Employers are liable to prosecution as provided for in Section 55 of the Employment Act if they fail to meet the recommendations.