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Opposition MPs storm out of Parliament

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Richard Chimwendo Banda

Parliament Wednesday passed the controversial Labour Relations Amendment Bill, without opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who stormed out of the House in protest against what they described as bad law.

Tension started simmering soon after Parliament reconvened sitting at 2pm, as opposition members showed their disgust at the piece of legislation which they argued was designed to limit freedom of workers in the country.

On almost three occasions, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aisha Adams had to grant a division, which the government side won, as a way of ensuring that the august House made progress on passing the bill.

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When it became apparent that the government would still pass the legislation, backed by its numerical advantage, over 40 DPP members who were in the House stormed out of the House.

Briefing reporters soon after walking out of the House, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa said they left the chamber to show solidarity with Malawians.

While DPP lawmakers were walking out of the House, legislators from the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) remained in the chamber and continued to take part in the deliberations.

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Speaking after the bill was passed, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda faulted the DPP for absconding duty.

Chimwendo Banda said it was unfortunate that the DPP wanted to get things its way all the time.

Among the highly contested provisions of the legislation is the need to deduct wages from striking workers for each day they abscond from work.

In its recommendations, the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament proposed three days of striking annually before the employer deducts wages from any employer on strike.

Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba argued that there was a need to strike a balance between the rights of the employee as well as the need for the economy to progress.

Mzimba North lawmaker Yeremiah Chihana, who also walked out of Parliament, said although he is part of the Tonse Alliance, he felt that the bill did not favour Malawians.

“Bills like these are the ones Chakufwa Chihana fought against,” Chihana said.

Yesterday, the House also passed the Employment Act Amendment Bill.

Earlier in the day, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), staged protests at Parliament Building against the Labour Relations Amendment Bill.

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