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Centre for Social Research fights workers over payments

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A battle is brewing between 40 disgruntled workers and Centre for Social Research (CSR), with the former accusing CSR of failing to honour its promise to pay them their dues after being hired to conduct a door to door survey on behalf of Lilongwe Water Board (LWB).

We have learnt that in 2017, the organisation hired 60 people – comprising research assistants and plumbers who checked on illegal connections. Their contracts run from 16 June to 14 October 2017.

Each worker was supposed to be paid a monthly salary of K65, 000 and a daily allowance of K15, 000 but they only got paid on time in the first two months.

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Representative of the workers, Jonas Lungu said trouble began when the group was told to be lodging in one place, though initially the agreement was that everyone would operate from home.

“They stopped giving us airtime and didn’t pay us on time. They only gave us excuses that they were still working on the payments. After sometime, they gave us an allowance for two days only which was K30, 000 for each person. We couldn’t reject it because we were stranded,” he said, adding that about 20 people withdrew from the survey due to the setbacks.

Lungu disclosed that with the hope that they were going to get their payment, they ended up accumulating debts.

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“They initially told us not to worry about the lodge payments because they had already negotiated with the owners to host us. But we reached an extent of sharing beds to save on the costs. They gave us money for a few days. But at the moment, they still owe each one of us K1, 025,000 as of October when we were completing the survey. This is for 51 days and a four months’ salary,” he said.

According to him, the workers have been very frustrated, especially because CSR Director, Blessings Chinsinga gave them no hope.

“We also took the matter to some human rights organisations and other media houses but nothing happened….when we tried to follow up on the matter with Dr. Chinsinga later on, he told us that ‘mesa munakandinenera ku mabungwe keep on waiting for them, ndikapeza ndalama ndizakupasani’ (Since you reported the matter to human rights organisations, keep waiting on them, I will pay you when I have money),” Lungu lamented.

He said the workers are worried that they might lose their money as they have information that LWB already paid a lot of money to CSR.

When contacted, Chinsinga confirmed that the people indeed worked on a CSR contract and that his organisation owes them money but stressed that they have not been able to pay them on time because they are yet to get their payment from LWB upon submission of a final report.

“We understand this whole issue from a human point of view…No one can blame them for that, but they need to understand the situation. Their approach to this issue has not been good. They have been calling me individually; have been to media houses and even human rights organisations on this matter. CSR is a very reputable organisation which has conducted many of similar projects but we have delayed because our client has not paid us yet,” he said.

LWB Public Relations Officer, Vanessa Chidyaonga, confirmed to have contracted CSR for the door to door meter verification survey.

“….they are the ones responsible for the people they hired. We haven’t paid them because we are waiting for the final report,” she said, without elaborating whether it is the whole agreed amount or part of it, as alleged by the workers.

She promised to provide us with the details (on the percentage of the money that LWB owes CSR) but had not done so as we went to press.

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