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CDEDI warns against proposed labour law amendments

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives – CDEDI has voiced its concern over the intention by Parliament to amend Malawi’s Labour Relations laws saying they could be targeting teachers and health workers.

The proposed amendments according to leaders of the organization are an infringement of human rights and are further being described as a deliberate move to silence a lot of people who are struggling in the country.

A bill was tabled in Parliament on Friday that section 46 of the Labour Relations Act should be amended to grant an employer the right to deduct wages of an employee who is on strike.

The proposal according to the ministry of labour is in line with International Labour Organization’s guidelines and international best practices which entitle an employer to respond to a strike by withholding wages from the employee on the basis of the principle of no work, no pay.

Executive Director for CDEDI, Sylvester Namiwa, has since challenged President Lazarus Chakwera not to sign the law amendments in case Parliament passes them.

“Our message to President Chakwera is that human rights are non-negotiable and not so long ago we saw teachers complaining of their work environment.”

“We are not surprised that this law wants to be amended because we also heard that the government wanted to deduct salaries of teachers who were staging protests,” added Namiwa.

The organization despite advising the executive arm of government not to sign the proposed amendments has called on people to rise and protect their own rights.

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Similar concerns on the bills tabled in Parliament were also raised by Employer’s Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM) and Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) in a letter dated 30 June, 2021 addressed to the Secretary for Labour saying they are against the amendments.

The letter further details to the ministry that they strongly object to government’s intention to amend the labour laws without informing social partners of the decision or discussing with them.

“The foregoing not only breaches the spirit of Labour Relations Act that established the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council but is also not in tandem with ILO Convention No. 144 and Recommendation No. 152,” reads part of the letter as signed by ECAM and MCTU leaders.

In an earlier interview, Deputy Minister of Labour, Vera Kamtukule, told Capital FM that it is an internationally recommended standard that unions at workplaces must take care of affairs of employees.

“If you are a union member then that means you will not be part of a strike, but if you are involved in any strike then that union must be responsible for paying you in that period,” explained Kamtukule.

She also added that for a long time in Malawi, members of unions have not been demanding for accountability from their unions because money that is paid as membership fees are the same resources to be used for paying members that are on strike.

If passed in Parliament, the Labour Relations Act will further give powers to the minister to publish a list of essential services which may not go on strike or lockdown and provide compensatory guarantees for the listed essential services.

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