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Judiciary union files against amended labour law

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CONFIRMED—Gondwe

Judiciary Staff Union has filed an application, seeking the courts to grant them an interlocutory injunction against the amended Labour Relations Bill, pending judicial review.

The application filed to the High Court’s Blantyre registry on July 15, 2021 is, among others, asking the court to review the decision to enact the Labour Relations Amendment bill when consultations were not finalised and therefore declare it ‘unconstitutional and therefore void ab initio’.

Registrar of High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, Gladys Gondwe, confirmed Friday that they have received the application and the case has been assigned to Judge Mandala Mambulasa.

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The application, judicial review case number 44 of 2021, has Speaker of National Assembly, Minister of Justice and Constitution Affairs, Minister of Labour, Skills and Innovation, Attorney General, President of the Republic of Malawi as first, second, third, fourth and fifth respondents respectively.

The application comes at a time when President Lazarus Chakwera had an interface with Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) leadership where he had assured them that he will not endorse the bill.

In an interview Friday, lawyer for the applicants, Wesley Mwafulirwa, said they are still proceeding with the matter because there is no formal communication from the President that he would not assent to the bill.

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“Our argument is that there were no thorough consultations. To put it on record, MCTU membership is not mandatory, what this means is that other unions were left out during the consultations. Even when you read the minutes of the consultations it was concluded that the discussions would continue,” he said.

Among others, the bill has Section 46 which has been amended to grant an employer the right to deduct wages of an employee who is on strike.

There has been an uproar on the bill, with MCTU leading the charge against it saying the Ministry of Labour did not consult them for the proposed amendments.

This week, MCTU met with the President Lazarus Chakwera on the matter where they asked him not to assent to the bill.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has also written Chakwera asking him not to assent to the bill.

The confederation said in a letter to Chakwera that the decision by the government to go unilaterally on the bill breached the President’s own philosophy of collective responsibility.

The union appealed to the President to refer it back to the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council for meaningful and thorough consultation.

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