The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has rejected a proposal by the Ministry of Labour to hold discussions over the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Employment Bill ahead of its scheduled nation-wide demonstrations slated for Thursday.
Labour Deputy Minister Vera Kamtukule said this in Lilongwe yesterday at a media briefing her ministry organised to clear misconceptions regarding the two bills.
According to Kantukule, the meeting was scheduled for Tuesday morning and was supposed to involve MCTU, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) and the Ministry of Labour.
“We wrote MCTU, inviting them to a meeting alongside Ecam, but they have refused to come, saying they will only come to the meeting if it is sanctioned by the President [Lazarus Chakwera],” Kamtukule said.
MCTU Secretary General Madalitso Njolomole confirmed turning down the invitation from the Ministry of Labour, saying they saw no reason for the meeting after the two bills had already been passed in Parliament.
According to Njolomole, currently, the only person who has powers over the two bills is Chakwera, who is expected to assent to the bills.
“Before the bills were tabled in Parliament, we wrote the Ministry of Labour to discuss the matter and they did not grant us an audience. Now that the bills have been passed, we see no reason that we should meet them as they no longer have control over the bills.
“The only person we are ready to meet in this case is President Lazarus Chakwera, who has the powers to assent to the bills or not,” Njolomole said.
During the briefing, Kamtuluke said the Labour Relations Amendment Bill would help Malawi attract more investors into the country, arguing that as things stand, the labour laws are not investor-friendly.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) has called on Chakwera to address workers to avoid nationwide strikes.
HRCC Chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba warned that the situation on the ground was already tense and could be poisoned by strikes.
“The President has an opportunity to avert the strikes by engaging labour unions in time before the demonstrations to reach an amicable settlement than adopt a wait-and-see attitude,” Mkwezalamba said.