Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) says it will proceed with demonstrations against the recently passed Labour Relations Amendment Act effectively rejecting dialogue with government.
Deputy Minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule confirmed the development yesterday during a press briefing in Lilongwe where the ministry explained its position on the contentious law, which labour groups say will limit workers’ rights to hold a strike and be represented at the Industrial Relations Court.
She said her ministry invited both MCTU and Employers’ Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) to a meeting yesterday, but MCTU refused to show up.
Kumtukule added that MCTU had indicated to the ministry that it was going ahead with demonstrations planned for Thursday and will only accept dialogue which involves President Lazarus Chakwera.
On the passed law, she said the ministry had consulted all stakeholders ahead of passing the Bill and said the law is within the international legal frameworks.
Kamtukule said: “It should be noted further that consultations do not necessarily have to result in consensus in order for government to proceed to take a decision on any given issue.
“What matters is for government to take into account the views of stakeholders presented during consultation, which government did in both cases.”
She said one of the key provisions of the law is the gradual phasing out of tenancy practice in the country and the introduction of the ‘no work no pay’ concept, which is aimed at attracting foreign investors and balancing up the rights of employers and employees.
In an interview, MCTU president Madalitso Njolomole yesterday said the body rejected dialogue because the minister does not have powers to change a passed Bill.
“We also wrote to them, asking for a meeting before the Bill was tabled until now. So, we realised that there is a lot of mistrust between us. Our goal is to have the law removed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Youth and Society (YAS), a civil society organisation, has called upon government to start enforcing the recently gazetted minimum wages, particularly for the informal sector.
In a statement, YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said some employers are not complying with the Act.
“Following the gazetting of the minimum wage, all employers are legally bound to comply with the law. Needless to state that the Employment Act is applicable to all employers and their workers in Malawi except the army, police and prison services. Section 55 of the Employment Act prescribes that minimum wages set under Section 54 shall not be subject to abatement. Thus, the set minimum wage as gazetted is law and non-negotiable,” he said.
Kaloweka further said government has constitutional obligations, and under international law, to protect labour rights and guarantee non-discrimination.
“More so, Section 12(1) (d) of the Constitution mandates the government to protect the human rights of everyone. We believe this also includes protection from human rights abuses by third parties, including business enterprises.
“We are, however, concerned with the government’s inaction and failure to hold accountable the employers which defy guaranteeing the minimum wage to employees in accordance with the law.