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Uproar on Labour Bill

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Richard Chimwendo Banda

Government Friday tabled six amendment bills, including the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which has already been condemned by stakeholders such as Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM), Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).

The other bills include the Constitutional Amendment, Parliamentary Service Employment amendment, Political Parties and Insurance deposit bills.

All the bills have been referred to relevant Committees for scrutiny for the next three days.

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Deputy Minister of Labour, Vera Kamtukule said the Labour Relations Amendment Bill seeks to balance the right to strike and the need to produce in an economy.

The bill is giving powers to employers to deduct wages of an employer who goes on strike or absents himself from work.

The bill will also clarify categories of essential services to which the strike and lockdown should not apply and that employee and employer should not be part of panelists in determination of industrial matters.

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Ecam Executive Director, George Khaki and MCTU Secretary General Madalitso Njolomole said they were not informed nor given an opportunity to give their input.

“Should government proceed to table the amendments without due consultation, the employers Consultative Association of Malawi and Malawi Congress of Trade Union will not support the said changes,” reads the joint statement.

CHRR Executive Director, Michael Kaiyatsa, in another statement said the amendments are at the expense of an employee hence the bill must be withdrawn pending consultations.

“CHRR finds that there’s no justification for removing the current protections for employees who participate in industrial action or strike. Amendments also defeat the purpose of section 31(4) of the constitution.

But Kamtukule insisted that the consultations were vigorously made since 2016.

“We are not denying the fundamental right of a person to strike. But the law says if you go on strike you will not be paid for the time you are on strike. An employee is employed to provide a particular service, and if they take away their services why should they be paid,” Kamtukule said.

Leader of the House, Richard Chimwendo Banda, said the stakeholders have a chance to present their grievances on any of the bills.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill wants to introduce the office of deputy Chief justice and that appointments of judges should be on contract.

The Political Parties Amendment Bill wants political parties to align their manifestos to the 3063 national development agenda.

On the other hand, the Employment Amendment Bill seeks to remove tenancy labour to deal with the issue of child labour in the tobacco industry and to introduce paternity leave, to be granted once in three years.

Parliament is expected to deliberate on the bills from Wednesday next week.

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