KCH workers fight government over promotions
Some 19 civil servants working at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) have for 10 years been fighting management of the hospital to confirm them on the position of Ward Clerk having been acting on the position for a long time.
According to documents Malawi News has seen, some of the concerned workers have been acting in the position for over 20 years.
The people were employed as Ward Attendants but due to staff shortage at the hospital, they started working on the position of Ward Clerks in an acting capacity.
They started fighting for promotions in 2006. But in 2009 government advertised the positions of Ward Clerk, calling for people with a minimum qualification of Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), a qualification which many of the workers did not have.
The ministry further wrote the workers that it would not compromise on the minimum qualification for the post but the workers complained that they had been in the positions for long, albeit in acting capacity.
A list of the concerned people shows that one of them started acting on the position on February 10, 1982. Two more started acting in the 1980s, one in 1985 and another in 1987.
Five people started acting on the position in 1991.
Eight acted in the position since 2002.
The workers took the matter to Industrial Relations Court and a ruling by the court went in their favour.
“I am mindful of the fact that promotions are not done arbitrarily other than through proper means i.e interviews and one must have proper qualifications. However the conduct of the respondent is exploitative and unfair labour practice for one to act as a ward clerk for as long as a period of 24 years on the strength of a clause in one’s job description which state ‘any other duties as assigned from time to time’.
“In my view, it was supposed to be a temporal period and as when need arise. In the present case, this is not the case,” reads Deputy Chairperson, Chimwemwe Kamowa’s ruling which he delivered on April 9 2015.
In September the same year, lawyer representing the concerned workers, Ian Kumpita, wrote the Attorney General after noting that KCH was not complying with the court’s order.
A year after the ruling there has been no movement on the matter.
“We are surprised that government is still doing nothing on the matter. We feel this is unfair,” said one of the affected workers.
In an interview this week, Kumpita said the development is an indication of how slow government can be in respecting court orders.
“We filed certificate of non-compliance. The problem we have is that the court’s order cannot be enforced by sheriffs. The people just want their rights respected. The Ministry of Health must regularise the positions. We know government is a colossal organisation but the period it has taken for it to respect the order is unreasonable,” Kumpita said.
The said certificate of non-compliance was filed on November 17, 2015. It reminded the Attorney General that “the respondent has not regularised the positions of the applicants, has not done proper promotions, is continuing with the unfair labour practices which the applicant sought relief thereof as the applicants herein are still made to work as ward clerks without proper promotion for as long as and/or over 24 year and denying the applicants from employment benefit for instance, pension.”
Several attempts to speak to the Attorney General through spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice proved futile.
But KCH Director, Jonathan Ngoma, said once people act on a position, it is not automatic that they will be given the positions permanently.
“Once a person is employed he or she is given a job description which says any other duties as assigned from time to time. For one to be a Ward Clerk, there has to be a vacancy. There should be interviews for that. But these people were only told to act on the said positions,” Ngoma said.
“Authority to employ is not with KCH but with government. Of course we know a person cannot act on a position for a long time. Yes, the order was given but we were not given permission to employ. We are still waiting for instruction from the Attorney General on what to do next.”
Meanwhile, Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) Secretary General Pontius Kalichero also faulted government on the development.
“It is very unfortunate that people have been on acting for such long periods. It is clear that the people in question have been denied benefits which go with the posts,” Kalichero said.
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