A governance watchdog organization with a primary mandate of protecting and promoting human rights and democratic governance in Malawi, Youth and Society [YAS], has appealed for Government’s enforcement of the Minimum Wage in the Informal sector pursuant to section 54 of the Employment Act of 2000.
YAS says in December 2020, the Ministry of Labour fixed the minimum wage in the Government Gazette Notice Number 68 which came into effect on 01 January 2021 saying the minimum wage for all workers was fixed at MK50,000.08 while for domestic workers at MK38,000.04 per month which was a significant step by the Government of Malawi towards promoting economic welfare of the working class particularly those earning below the living wage.
The organization says following the gazettment of the minimum wage, some employers are not complying with the Government Notice Number 68 in violation of labour rights of many citizens in the informal sector.
In a letter dated 12th July 2021 addressed to the Secretary for Labour, Mr. Dickson Chunga, with copies to Hon. Deputy Minister of Labour, Hon. Attorney General, Minister of Finance and Executive Secretary, Malawi Human Rights Commission [MHRC], YAS is demanding the Ministry of Labour and other relevant authorities to immediately take steps to investigate and punish all employers for culpable economic exploitation with remedies of compensation for victims of exploitation.
YAS in the letter signed by its Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka, is asking the Ministry of Labour to consider issuing a public notice calling on all employers to enforce the government fixed minimum wage and to roll out a comprehensive awareness program to sensitize workers in the informal sector on their fundamental labour rights and available redress mechanisms for human rights abuses.
The organization is also demanding the Ministry of Labour, in collaboration with the MHRC, to take deliberate efforts to engage the private sector and provide guidance on their human rights obligations including compliance with applicable laws such as minimum wage and Government of Malawi should ensure the adaptation and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
“…We remain at your disposal for any guidance on how to address the concerns highlighted and will wait your prompt action in response to this letter, we will be most appreciate of positive actions taken by the Ministry of Labour and other state authorities on this important issue, we will also be grateful to hear from you on the steps being taken to address this matter…,’’ reads part of the letter.
YAS says it is concerned with the Government’s inaction and failure to hold accountable employers that defy guaranteeing the minimum wage to employees in accordance with the law, the government has the duty to protect and promote the rule of law by providing for adequate accountability and legal transparency.
The organization says it is regrettable that the government is failing in its obligation to protect the Constitution by ensuring that the business enterprises operating in Malawi operate in a manner consistent with the applicable laws and acceptable human rights standards saying failure to enforce minimum wage requirements has heightened the economic vulnerability of the workers in the informal sector.
It says while it may appear that the Government is not responsible for this economic exploitation by private businesses, it still has a duty to protect citizens from economic exploitation and can be held liable for failure to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress private actors’ abuse observing that in a country where poverty is stubbornly high coupled with Covid-19 crisis exploitative labour practices will only deepen economic marginalization of the poor working class.
By Vincent Gunde