Trade Union says economic gains yet to trickle down

The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) says its members are yet to benefit from the economic gains the country has achieved in recent years as their incomes have remained static.

In an interview on Monday, MCTU secretary general Denis Kalekeni said stable prices of goods and services on the market came at a time the cost of living had already shot up, living their members with limited purchasing power.

Workers in one of the demonstrations against low pay

He said: “As MCTU, of late, we have seen stabilisation of market prices, but then, how do we balance this with the same income we used to get before prices escalated? We believe that for us to enjoy these economic gains, perhaps it is high time we revised our minimum wages set-up.

“We want to negotiate with government to consider effecting a living wage or at least raise the minimum wage to about K100 000. Otherwise, with the cost of living averaging K190 000, how do you expect a minimum wage earner to enjoy the economic gains with a mere K25 000?”

The cost of living basket comprising food and essential non-food items has stabilised in the country’s three major cities largely buoyed by increased supply of most food items and stable prices of food and non-food items, figures from Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) show.

The cost of living between January 2018 and January 2019 has been stable at between K180 000 and K190 000.

The CfSC Basic Needs Basket (BNB) report for January 2019 released recently showed that the cost of living jumped to K194 483 in January from K190 543 the previous month.

Despite facing several challenges, the country’s economy registered an average growth of three percent in 2018 with inflation rate largely remaining low while the kwacha has remained stable.

In a circular issued on July 2 2018 by the Department of Human Resource Management and Development, government approved the 10 and 20 percent salary increment for senior and junior civil servants, respectively, against the unions’ proposed minimum of 20 percent.

In the 2018/19 fiscal year, the public wage bill is projected at K392 billion, representing a 24.3 percent increase over the previous budget due to salary hikes for civil servants.

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