Employees to pay for illegal strikes


Employees risk foregoing their pay if they engage in industrial action deemed to be illegal if government goes ahead to adopt new recommendations to the Employment Bill and Labour Relations Act.

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill is proposing, among other things, inserting new subsections to Section 46 to provide for an employer’s right to deduct money from the earnings of an employee who is on strike.

According to the amendment Bill, this proposal is in line with International Labour Organisation guidelines which entitle an employer to respond to a strike by deducting money from the employee’s wages.


In November 2016, government requested for a position from the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) and the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) in respect to the proposed amendments.

Ecam has since made a recommendation to the effect that workers who proceed on industrial action without following the procedures in the Industrial Relations Act should pay for it.

Going forward, after a court of law declares a strike illegal, the employer will have the right to withhold wages.


Ecam Executive Director Beyani Munthali said such a provision would promote sound industrial relations and protect the employer who has followed dispute resolution mechanism as well as ensuring that procedures are followed by workers.

“What it means is that the employer will not have to pay workers who have gone on a strike that is unprotected during the period they are not working.

“We have noted that, in some cases, workers proceed on industrial action in bad faith. Industrial action is meant to force the other party to address the others grievances. It is a tool of last resort in industrial relations. As the law stands, employers lose a lot in productivity when there are unprotected strikes,” Munthali said.

In an earlier interview, Munthali said most of the strikes being reported in the media are “unprotected” as they happen without following prescribed national procedures.

He said, for a strike to be legal in Malawi, workers must first follow procedures laid out in the Labour Relations Act under Section 46 which include contact and dialogue.

“Going on strike should be the last resort after all the resolution mechanisms have failed. Employers in Malawi recognise the right to organise through freedom of association for the purposes of promoting and protecting workers’ interests.

“In promoting social dialogue and collective bargaining, our members have been encouraged to recognise the rights of workers, just as the rights of employers are respected. This position is also the general position of employers internationally,” he said.

But labour unions have been accusing employers of frustrating employees, forcing them to resort to strikes to get their needs to be addressed.

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