Malawi Telecom Workers' Strike Worries Minister


A dispute over retirement benefits dating back to the beginning of Malawi Telecoms privatisation is having severe consequences for Malawi. Its Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati on Monday expressed concern over Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL)'s workers' strike, the country's only fixed telephone firm, saying their ten-day industrial action had negatively affected business in the country.

Speaking to APA during an interview, Kaliati said the public and private sector in the country relied on MTL for a wide range of communications service. She added that the banking system, radio transmission and health facilities were also among the sectors that have been affected by the workers who downed their tools over retirement benefits nearly two weeks ago.

"Most rural hospitals that have been relying on MTL to send important messages to referral hospitals are depending on mobile phones for communication which is very expensive, while other hospitals are in very remote areas where there is no network for the mobiles," she explained. Some local radios which do not use satellites have also been affected by the strike which entered its tenth day on Monday.

Kaliati, however, has called on the employees and employers of the company to resolve the issue as soon as possible so that they start work to avoid further losses in the private and public sectors.

MTL Secretary General for Workers Union, Frank Jalang'ombe, urged his fellow employees to resume work on Monday, while negotiations are in progress. The strike started last Friday as a result of the company's failure to pay its junior employees their pension money accrued from 1997 to February 2006 when MTL was privatised.