Weighing in on minimum wage debate in Malawi


By Charles Chanje:

Minimum wage discussions, pronouncements or proposals, which are premised on the idea of hiking wages, could not have come at a better time for workers across the board.

At the same time, the discussions have come at a bad time employing agencies.


At the end of the whole debate, an agreed percentage position shall have to be determined and to be applied by both parties either as an on-the-job motivator or job space shrinkage.

Some economic analysts have observed that the acutely affected section of labour is the private sector, be it domestic, commercial, industrial, farming sectors, albeit, to a lesser extent, government general manual workers.



The tripartite setup of Government, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi and the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions is mandated to debate and arrive at a reasonable minimum wage, across the board.

The three parties’ consultations have always been as perennial as grass… repetitive.

The agreed minimum rate would usher short lived sanity to economical activities, given the attendant inflationary forces which are ever present.

While the minimum wage set by those who take part in tripartite discussions ought to be a starting point on issues to do with wage negotiations between the individual employer and a worker on the ground.

In most cases, it turns out to be a ceiling, instead, thus leaving the receiving party pointing a finger at those that meet at tripartite level until the next set of negotiations.


Perhaps the tripartite body must encourage various sectors to negotiate industrial minimum wage over and above the national minimum wage.

Each industry— for instance, hospitality, farming, heavy engineering, light engineering, commercial,/ transport, domestic sectors— could be urged to setup industrial councils.

The councils would be mandated, by the Legislature, to negotiate not only industrial minimum wages for labourers but an entire package of rules and conditions of work to apply to a specific industry.

These conditions would include job descriptions, job grades, work hours, safety and health policies, codes of conduct, disciplinary codes and procedures to address breaches, rewards and motivation systems etc.

Each industrial sector has a unique work environment to which unique rules, conditions and remuneration apply; so, too, departments within the same company.

A cleaner in a hospital office and the one who cleans the mortuary may be graded differently. Cleaning duties for a domestic worker may not match those for one in a foundry or underground mine or hotel lobby or supermarket / merchant shop.

As such, putting them under one minimum wage is, for lack of a better word, criminal.

The individual industrial councils would come up with industrial agreements to formulate rules for approval by the appointed authority. It would also be within the council’s jurisdiction to ensure that their membership adheres to the promulgated industrial agreements.

This layout would ensure that the entire industry would be self-driven in as far as overall conditions and remuneration are concerned, thus relieving the government and its agents of the responsibility of getting directly involved with goings-on in the industry.

Instead, they would be there to offer advice, guidance and facilitate the process of appeals, as provided for in the Malawi Employment Act.

The Industrial Relations Court can also be involved in the adjudication of cases.

*These are views of a layman who retired after gaining vast experience in the civil service.

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker