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Egyptian Embassy ‘exploiting’ Malawian employees

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Malawian employees working at the Egyptian Embassy are allegedly being abused as they reportedly work under poor conditions.

The employees mostly work during odd hours but are not given over-time allowances and are at times forced to sleep at the office after late night functions.

Malawi News understands that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development are aware of the issues.

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We have further learned that the highest paid local employee receives K60, 000 while the lowest paid gets K20, 000. In addition to that, the employees are not given their monthly pay slips. The employees’ salaries are deducted if they happen to be absent from work when they are either sick or attend a close relation’s funeral.

A comparative analysis we undertook has established that this is unlike other foreign embassies in the country, where, on average, the secretary to the ambassador gets K400, 000 while a driver gets K200, 000.

The issue was reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (which also engaged the Ministry of Labour on the matter) last year but nothing positive has happened.

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According to Centre for Social Concern’s Basic Needs Basket (report), which covered the first six months of 2017, an average family in an urban settlement would require between K140, 000 to K180, 000 to survive in a month.

Labour Commissioner for the Ministry of Labour, Hlalerwayo Nyangulu, confirmed to have been consulted on Egyptian Embassy workers’ issues.

He said the workers complained to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which is the right procedure for employees who work for institutions (such as Embassies and United Nations Organisations) that enjoy diplomatic immunity under international treaties.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited the Ministry of Labour to provide advice as a competent authority on labour matters. The advice given was based on the provision of the Labour Laws. In fact, the laws apply to embassies and their respective employees..,” Nyangulu said.

Nyangulu highlighted that work standards vary, so long as they do not violate the laws of Malawi: “The standards can also be guided by a collective agreement between an employer and employee but should not be below the prescribed minimum standards by the law.”

He said conditions of service of a local organisation are different from those of the embassies.

“… just like the conditions of service are not uniform for all the companies, including media houses. For example, it is not unusual that salaries are different in different companies. I believe the same applies to media houses,” Nyangulu said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, said, according to the Ministry of Labour’s advice, the Egyptian Embassy has not committed any crime because their salary payments are according to the country’s minimum wage requirements.

“But we (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) wrote the Egyptian Embassy to consider addressing issues of issuing pay slips and payment of over-time allowances and other issues which the employees raised,” Shumba said.

Shumba then promised to revert with a detailed response (on the issue) to the questionnaire we sent on Monday. But, as we went to press, the ministry had not yet sent the responses.

Malawi’s minimum wage is K962 per day, which translates to K28, 860 for 30 days (one month) and this is for all workers regardless of whether they are skilled or unskilled employees.

We have established that skilled employees are supposed to negotiate with prospective employers on how much they want to be paid; otherwise, the Ministry of Labour cannot intervene in any labour issue unless there is a labour dispute by either party and the ministry will only come in to resolve it.

The Egyptian Embassy had not responded to our questions as we went to press. We sent the questions to them last week. Two days later, they requested that the questions be sent to them on a headed paper (bearing Times Group logo), and signed by one of the editors, as an indication of authority. This was done, but they still did not respond to the questions by yesterday (Friday) and the phones of their Deputy Ambassador went unanswered.

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