Written by MALAWI NEWS AGENCY
LILONGWE--Thousands of civil servants in Lilongwe marched peacefully on Wednesday from Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) Round About to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) where they presented their petition.
The civil servants were led by Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) leaders and they were escorted by hundreds of heavily armed police officers all the way to OPC where another contingent of the law enforcers stood on guard.
Presenting their petition, CSTU President, Elia Kamphinda Banda, flanked by TUM General Secretary Denis Kalekeni, said the civil servants were presenting the petition to OPC following the halting of negotiations between Government and CSTU over the latter’s concerns.
“The Civil Servants Trade Union and its partners (Teachers Union of Malawi and National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives), after observing that we have issues requiring negotiations, and seeing that negotiations have halted, would like to bring to your attention such issues for immediate redress,” read Kamphinda.
The 10-point petition among other things demands mainstreaming of public servant salary to a minimum of MK75, 000 lowest paid and mainstreaming of public servant with a degree (professional grade) at a minimum of MK186, 000.
The civil servants demanded in their petition salary increment considering the economy, for example, inflation and devaluation, and that there must be extension in notches for civil servants.
The petition also called for an equal percentage on allowances and it further asked for a 100 percent upward revision of Subsistence Allowance for local travel; Disturbance, Bicycle and other small allowances; and Leave Grant.
CSTU and its partners also want Government’s controlling measures on vehicles put on hold as the development “reduces motivation.”
“Civil servants acknowledge the significance of controlling measures on the economy,” read the petition, “However, the limit on the vehicles per ministry or department risks eliminating jobs of drivers in public service and reduced motivation.”
In conclusion, Kamphinda called on government to make sure that there were smooth negotiations between the Union and Government and that there must be trust between the two sides.
Meanwhile, CSTU and its partners want the chairmanship of the Government Negotiating Team, GNT, replaced if negotiations are to continue, saying the Union has lost trust in the current GNT leadership.
Accepting the petition on be-half of Government, Deputy Chief Secretary responsible for Administration Willie Samuti said Government had heard the civil servants’ concerns and that it would act accordingly.
The civil servants strike commenced on Monday February 11, 2013 at Capital Hill in Lilongwe but workers from other sectors such as education, and health joined on Tuesday, February 19, 3013.
Meanwhile, the civil servants in Lilongwe say they will continue camping at Capital Hill Freedom Park until their concerns have been addressed.
On the other hand Government made its stand on same Wednesday that the striking workers must go back to work because “an offer of reasonable package for the civil servants had been decided on.”
At a press briefing held earlier on the day at the OPC where Cabinet Ministers and top Government officials were present, Principal Secretary for Human Resources, Sam Madula, said Government had summoned CSTU to talks on the matter on Thursday.
“It is the intention of Government to resolve amicably the on-going civil servants’ strike and in view of this Government has come up with a reasonable remuneration package as far as our economy can afford,” said Madula, adding, “But it is the unavailability of CSTU to the talks that we are concerned with because it is delaying the whole process.”
However, Madula could not disclose the percentage of increment, saying it was up to the Union to communicate to the members after negotiations on Thursday.
Commenting on the development, Chief Secretary to Government, Bright Msaka, said Government had many options to take, should the civil servants continue with the strike despite the call from Government for them to go back to work.