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Tension simmers at Escom

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TENSION is mounting at the country’s sole power provider, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), where workers are demanding to be paid separation packages as the company is scheduled to split into two entities with one focusing on power generation while the other will deal with transmission and distribution.

The development has raised fear among over 2,500 Escom employees across the country who claim that their future with the corporation remains uncertain. A member of Escom Workers Union, Manfred Mvula, confided in The Daily Times on Monday that the body has taken management to task so that it pays its members terminal benefits before completion of the unbundling process.

“We are concerned that should the splitting be done before we have been paid, there will be a lot to risks. Jobs might be lost in the process, so the packages would save the situation in the life after Escom,” said Mvula.

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Giving the example of the time when the Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and Malawi Post Corporation split, Mvula said the move aims at avoiding a scenario where employees lose out completely in the name of reforms like it happened with the two companies. “At MTL and MPC people ended up jobless and yet assurances were given that they were safe.

So as a union representing voices of all employees, we would like to safeguard against such uncertainties before the unbundling deal gets through,” he added.

On Monday morning, the union members convened in the regional hubs of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu in a quest to push their authorities to provide answers to their queries. Meanwhile the meetings which reportedly shared notes have been postponed indefinitely after failing to reach a consensus.

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Early August employees wrote management giving it 21 days which elapse this week demanding an explanation on their fate but they claim the response has not been convincing.

When reached for comment Escom’s Public Relations Officer Kitty Chingota referred the matter to the Chief Executive Officer John Kandulu. But spokesperson responsible for the energy sector in the Ministry of

Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Joseph Kalowekamo, dispelled the fears by Escom employees, saying they are unfounded.

“It should be understood that not everyone will be affected by the changes, in this case those in generation, maybe, should be the ones with a case because they will be under a new company. Otherwise, the rest of the jobs like in transmission and distribution will remain intact,” said Kalowekamo.

Without clarifying if government would intervene in any way in addressing the employees’ concerns, Kalowekamo stated that government is doing everything possible to ensure that the unbundling of Escom does not impact negatively on its employees.

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