LILONGWE Feb 21 A two-week state workers strike
in Malawi has ended after union leaders and authorities agreed
on a 61 percent pay hike for the lowest paid public-sector
employees and a 5 percent rise for high earners, union officials
said on Thursday.
More than 100,000 public sector workers went on strike last
week demanding a 65 percent wage increase - almost double the
inflation rate - to counter a devaluation of the kwacha currency
and rises in the cost of living.
"We have agreed with government on a 61 percent increment
for the lowest paid civil servant and 5 percent for the highest
to be paid in arrears from January 2013 effective from next
month," civil servants trade union president Kamphinda Banda
During the strike, schools and the international airport
were closed, forcing Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines to
cancel flights to Lilongwe. Major hospitals, already short of
health workers and medicine, were paralysed.
Finance Minister Ken Lipenga said on Tuesday that the
government could not afford to increase wages and was
negotiating with the striking workers.
But the head of the government negotiating team, Ben Botolo,
said the state could meet the agreed increments with cuts in
"Of course a few services are going to suffer with this
increment because we have had to cut off some money in some
other sectors," Botolo said.
President Joyce Banda has instituted painful economic
reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund and foreign
donors since winning office last year. Aid traditionally
accounts for about 40 percent of the budget.
The IMF's mission chief to Malawi, Tsidi Tsikata, said on
Tuesday there were "encouraging signs" that the country's
economy is on the mend, with foreign exchange more available and
good rains set to increase farm output.
The IMF also recommended cutting or postponing non-essential
(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Tosin Sulaiman and