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Debate rages on minimum wage

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Dennis Kalekeni

There was division among key stakeholders over possibility of having the minimum wage increased across the board as other feel the adjustment should be based on sectors.

Presenting the provisional budget to parliament recently, Minister of Finance, Felix Mlusu, said the government will engage Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) to review the minimum wage from the current rate of K35,000 per month to a proposed K50,000 per month.

But during the first meeting held virtually on Wednesday, officials from Ministry of Labour, MCTU and Ecam could not reach a compromise on the matter.

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Our sources indicate that on the one hand, Ecam has proposed that sectors that are labour intense and are heavily affected by Covid-19 should have the minimum wage raised to K38,000 per month and that a review should be done in the next few months.

On the other hand MCTU holds that the minimum wage should be adjusted to K50, 000 for all sectors except domestic workers and that this should be implemented effective January 1 2021.

In an interview Thursday, MCTU General Secretary, Denis Kalekeni, confirmed of the meeting but said the talks are on-going.

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“We are still discussing. However, we will continue to monitor the situation as regards performance of industries and evaluate whether they really need a waiver or not because what we have agreed that it will have to be approved by Parliament before implementation,” Kalekeni said.

In an earlier Interview, Ecam Executive Director, George Khaki, said most affected sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic include manufacturing, domestic workers, security, agriculture, wholesale and retailing.

He said these should be given waivers and operate at the current minimum wage until the economic situation improves.

Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour, Hlalerwayo Nyangulu, said the outcome of the meeting will be made public at an appropriate time.

“The discussions are on-going and next week on Tuesday, Ecam and MCTU representatives will meet the Minister of Finance to sign what has been agreed in the meeting,” Nyangulu said.

The three parties however confirmed to have agreed on the increase of the tax free band from K45,000 to K100,000.

This is coming at a time economic activity has slowed in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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