Some Malawians in Mzuzu have disclosed that their bosses are still paying them stipends that are below government’s set minimum wage of MK50,000 per month.
In an interview, Gomezgani Sichali, shop assistant for one of the Asian shop owners, identified as HU Patel, confided in this reporter that his efforts to bring the issue to the attention of the labour officials proved futile.
“And, I am still pocketing that little. MK 18,000 the whole month. I’ve tried to engage the labour officials. Nothing came out. I gave up, anyway,” lamented Sichali.
Another worker, Frank Manda, disclosed that he works every day. From Sunday to Monday. No lunch. But, still getting stipends that are below government’s set standards.
“But we’ve no options. If we quit here. Where else would we go, given the unemployment levels in the country?” he stressed.
According to Frank, their masters are, often, fiendish. They slap them hard, call them scathing names and subject them to all sorts of inhumane conditions. But, they’re helpless.
“Once we report this to labour office. These masters just bribe them. That’s why they often challenge us that reporting the torture to labour office is a waste of time,” he added.
The Malawi government, through the ministry of labour, revised the minimum wage and made it mandatory for all the employers to abide by the laws by paying their workers stipends not less than MK50000 per month.
On the contrary, however, this publication can reveal that most employers in Mzuzu are defying the order by still paying their workers less than the set standards.
In an interview, one of the shop owners, Samira Muhammed, justified the payments, claiming that they are, in fact, too much, regarding the fact that most of Malawian workers they hire agree to work on part time basis.
“So, we pay them on part time basis. They’re not permanent workers. So, much as it looks little money, it is enough according to our agreements with them,” he claimed.
In contrast, Frank rubbished Muhammed’s claims, saying, all workers in Asian shops are employed on permanent basis.
“We work throughout the year. No holiday. Monday to Sunday. Is that part time?” He questioned.
A follow-up on the issue with officials at the Mzuzu labour office proved futile as most workers shunned to talk to this reporter.
However, in a separate interview, one of the officers who pleaded for anonymity disclosed that much as they really have been receiving such complaints from grieved workers, they’ve not been addressing then due to, among other things, lack of capacity and, corruption.
“Not only from those working for Asians. We’ve been getting complaints from several people. But, due to lack of capacity, we’ve not been addressing them. We can’t rule out corruption. It’s amidst us. There are some cases. They just get concealed under the carpet after money exchange hands,” he said.
Meanwhile, this paper got information from the labour office official which indicates that most private schools in the city are equally underpaying their workers.
According to the official, the labour office has been receiving such complaints from teachers and support staff from many private schools who are being payed less than the minimum wage of MK50 thousand per month.