Wednesday, February 20, 2013

■ MALAWI: Massive civil servant strike forces closure of Lilongwe & Blantyre airports.

MalawiAs they had previously threatened, civil servants in Malawi have gone on strike over payrise demands, thus bringing the country to a virtual standstill with Lilongwe's Kamuzu International Airport, and later Blantyre's Chileka International Airport, having being forced to close.

The apron at Lilongwe Kamuzu International Airport
The apron at Lilongwe Kamuzu International Airport(Hansueli Krapf)
Press reports state that air traffic controllers joined their colleagues in their industrial action, forcing all airlines to cancel their flights to the country. Kenya Airways (KQ), Ethiopian Airlines (ET) and South African Airways (SA) are amongst the affected regional carriers.

Lilongwe has been stricken by numerous strike in the last year, with the most recent being that of the Ground-handling staff in December 2012.

Mrs Banda is scheduled to fly to Equatorial Guinea on Thursday but it remains unclear whether she will do so owing to Lilongwe and Blantyre being closed.

This strike, triggered by last May's 49% devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha and its subsequent hard hitting effect on the cost of basic necessities, has swollen to over 100,000 public sector workers, all baying for the blood of President Joyce Banda, whom they hold responsible for their hardships. Workers are demanding a 67 percent wage increase – about double the inflation rate. Government gave the public servants between 21 and 46% salary hikes last year.
"If government does not respond positively to our demands, civil aviation workers will join the strike which means all airports will be closed," Eliah Kamphinda Banda, president of the Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU), said on Tuesday.
Malawian Finance Minister, Ken Lipenga, said however, that government had no capacity to meet the civil servants' demands.
"If we give the 67% increases then we will leave nothing for other sectors," he said. "If we go that route then we should forget our recovery programme."
Source [Panapress]

Following the death of Bingu waMutharika last year, Mrs Banda came to power and pledged to turn the stricken Central African country's economy around, but warned that doing so would involve painful cuts and austerity measures.

The International Monetary Fund mission chief to Malawi said there were “encouraging signs” that Malawi’s economy is on the mend, with foreign exchange more available and good rains set to increase farm output.