July 29, 2021

Pressure Forces Chakwera Not to Assent to Bill

Pressure from the Malawi Trade Union [MCTU] and its 26 affiliates in Malawi and the International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC-Africa] has seen President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera promise, the MCTU delegation that met him at his Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, not to assent to the bill once it gets to his table.

The Malawi Congress of Trade Union [MCTU] invited all of its 26 affiliates to join nation wide demonstrations in protesting against the amendment of the Labour Relations Act in all of the country’s major cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

The MCTU says in view of the meeting they had with President Dr. Chakwera, it has called off the planned national wide demonstrations slated for Thursday, 15th July 2021.

The demonstrations dubbed “NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US” would have been the first of its kind in 12 months after the Tonse Alliance was ushered into Government, through the court sanctioned Fresh Presidential Elections [FPE] which were held on 23rd June 2020.

Media reports on Wednesday indicated that the MCTU declined an invitation to a meeting with the Ministry of Labour officials ahead of Thursday demonstrations saying its officials were ready to meet the government side only if the meeting was called by President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera and this was done according to MCTU President who is also Teachers Union of Malawi [TUM] Secretary General, Charles Kumchenga.

Deputy Minister of Labour, Hon. Vera Kamtukule is reported to have maintained the same statement she made before Parliament, that the bill was widely consulted with all stakeholders including the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions [MCTU] and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi [ECAMA] saying consulting does not only mean reaching a consensual agreement.

Hon. Kamtukule said members of the Union contribute membership fee which is used to pay its members in the event that there is a strike or sit-in observing that it is only in Malawi where Labour Unions do not support their members in times of strikes. 

Many Malawians regardless of their political party affiliations have joined calls to ask President Dr. Chakwera not to assent the bill into law as it is very oppressive in nature reminding government that Malawi is a democratic state and no political party should be at the helm of oppressing Malawians in their own country.

Meanwhile, the International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC-Africa] representing 200 million workers in 163 countries, has denounced the Labour Relations [Amendment] Bill 2021 and the Employment [Amendment] Bill 2021.

In a letter dated 14th July 2021 signed by Kwasi Adu-Amankwah [General Secretary, ITUC-Africa and Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC] with copies to SADC, Malawi Congress of Trade Union and Hon. Mrs. Vera Kamtukule, Deputy Minister of Labour, is urging President Dr. Chakwera in his person and office to abide by Malawi’s obligations under Conventions 87, 98 and 144 of the International Labour Organization [ILO].

ITUC-Africa is advising President Dr. Chakwera and his Government to seek the technical assistance of the ILO to ensure that the draft bills comply with international labour standards outlined in the Conventions that Malawi voluntarily ratified.

The International organization is calling on President Dr. Chakwera not to assent to the bill and to refer it back to the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council for meaningful and thorough consultation taking into account the technical advice of the ILO.

“…Mr. President, your country is a party to the ILO Convention on Tripartite Consultations, the passing of the Labour Relations [Amendment] Bill 2021 and the Employment [Amendment] Bill 2021 without consultations is an abrogation by your government of its international obligation, we find it incomprehensible and unacceptable that a government that ascended to power through popular participatory resistance would engineer a paternalistic legislative process in such a brazen manner…,’’ reads the statement in part.

By Vincent Gunde

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