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Labour law battle rages as MCTU turns to court

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The fight for review of the controversial Labour Relations (Amendment) law continues as Malawi Congress Trade Union (MCTU) has turned to the courts by making an application for judicial review on the matter.

The Union, in a statement issued Friday, said they feel betrayed as President Lazarus Chakwera had promised them he would not assent to the bill to give room for further consultations.

Signed by MCTU president Charles Kumchenga and Secretary General Madalitso Njolomole, the Union stresses that the bill violates fundamental workers’ rights and is a threat to trade unionism in Malawi.

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“Given that the President has chosen to switch to uncompromising mode and in line with MCTU’s mandate, the General Council has mandated the secretariat to secure an interim relief pending judicial review on the constitutionality of the endorsed changes,” reads the statement in part.

The Union further says the direction taken by MCTU does not prevent it from supporting any legitimate protests by independent members or national organisations who may want the Legislature and Executive to review the decisions as a matter of urgency.

“MCTU is also made to believe that such laws by the government will strongly contribute towards widening the income gap inequalities and consequently leading to increased number of the working poor,” reads the statement in part.

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President Lazarus Chakwera assented to the controversial Labour Relations (Amendment) bill about three weeks ago together with three other bills.

The labour relations amendment law, among others, limits the period for industrial action by employees to three days.

In an interview yesterday, acting Presidential Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda said Chakwera respects the rule of law, which includes respecting the courts.

Kasunda said that is the reason he did not assent to the bill until the High Court had completed its judicial review of the same and attended to concerns raised by unions.

“Now that this is a bill passed by the Legislature after consultations, cleared by the Judiciary after consultations, the Executive has also assented to the bill after consultations. The President believes that between the consultations done by all three branches of government; all the concerns raised on the matter have been heard and settled. His appeal to all employers and employees is to study what this law actually says and requires of them, so as to avoid being misinformed by inaccurate reports about its contents,” he said.

MCTU is the mother body to 26 affiliated trade unions and represents over 900,000 members from both formal and informal sector.

Earlier, Judiciary members of Staff Union (Jumsu) also sought a stay against enactment of the Labour Relations (amendment) bill pending judicial review, which was turned down.

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