BLANTYRE, Malawi (AA) – Malawi parliament staffers went on strike Tuesday in an attempt to force the government to overturn a decision to cut their promised annual salary raise, disrupting parliamentary activity.
“We are tired of false promises; we want action now,” Leonard Tilingamawa, chairman of the Parliament Staff Union, told the media at parliament headquarters.
“Recently we read in the papers that members of parliament, the speaker and his deputies got a pay rise – so what’s wrong with us?” he fumed.
Tilingamawa said workers had long been in talks with the government, but to no avail.
Workers have been demanding a 24-percent a pay hike since last year and the government had finally appeared to bow to the pressure.
But in a drive intended to unify civil service salaries, the government has since backtracked, offering only a nine-percent wage increase.
This has angered workers, who took advantage of the new parliament session on Monday to shut the assembly and force MPs to cancel the meeting.
Legislators found parliament’s doors locked and workers playing soccer outside.
The workers, for their part, said they would only return to their offices once their grievances were sorted out.
Some staff members carried placards and sang anti-government songs, while others were seen idling about.
President Peter Mutharika said the strike was unfortunate.
“I hope they will go back to work as discussions continue,” he told a media briefing in the capital, Lilongwe.
“I had a discussion with the speaker of parliament today. The government has made an offer similar to the perks of the civil service,” said Mutharika.
He added that he expected the budget review meeting to continue, as it had been scheduled for three weeks only.
National Assembly Speaker Richard Msowoya said the strike would affect the agenda of parliament, which began with discussions of last month’s flood disaster that killed 176 people and displaced some 200,000.
“We will make sure we resolve the strike quickly. We are working with the executive to find a solution,” he told The Anadolu Agency.
“We are hoping to continue the meeting once this issue is resolved,” Msowoya said without giving a date for when he expected the matter to be resolved.
According to the schedule of the mid-term budget review meeting, the government plans to propose seven new bills, including one setting a minimum marriage age and another banning human trafficking.
Since June of last year, Malawi has seen frequent labor actions, mostly for salary increases.
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