MALAWI LEADERS BACK OFF BIG RAISES AMIDST WIDENING LABOR UNREST

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Dec. 8 (GIN) – A misguided effort to quietly hike up the paychecks of Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika and his VP roundly backfired, forcing them to cancel the generous gift to themselves “until a more appropriate time.”

“The Head of State and his deputy have suspended their new salaries,” a government spokesman told the Nyasa Times in a phone interview. Instead, he said, they will prioritize the improvement of living standards of civil servants and Malawians in general.

The new pay package was seen as bad taste at a time when the country was facing economic turmoil and belt tightening following foreign aid flight. In fact, almost every public service sector is facing labor unrest. In addition to higher pay, the two top leaders would have received free gas coupons and a rent allowance.

Meanwhile, from court room staff on strike for the past five months to primary school teachers boycotting classes to obtain salaries not paid for the past six months, labor militancy appears to be on the rise. Last week, supporting staff of the University of Malawi launched a sit in to demand a 45% salary hike.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau is also seeing a job action over wages while the Bureau chief says the office has been underfunded for investigations into the Cashgate scandal that brought down former president Joyce Banda.

“We’re not asking for anything out of this world,” one worker observed. “Our employers have failed to enforce the contract.”

"Our national Cake is not equally shared,” said opposition leader James Nyondo. “Our politicians are doing things that favor them.

Amidst the walkouts and slowdowns, huge pay raises recently sailed through parliament for ministers and lawmakers, doubling salaries from $1,150 to $3,000 monthly – or 168 percent plus fuel and housing allowances. Deputy Ministers’ salaries were doubled as were those of the 193 lawmakers who comprise the Malawi parliament. They also receive 1,000 litres per month in fuel allowance.

Ironically, in August the President rejected a salary hike for ministers calling them “unethical. “ “His Excellency President Mutharika finds it to be unethical to raise salaries when the cost of living is not only high for them but for every Malawian,” declared the leader’s press secretary. “He appeals to ministers to be good leaders and lead by example and forego the salary review being proposed.” w/pix of Malawi striking nurses

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