I have learnt with deep shock and trepidation about news that President Lazarus Chakwera has assented to the Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill 2021, which, among others, limits the period for industrial action (strike) by employees to three (3) days.
Firstly, let me inform President Chakwera that the framers of the Labour Relations Act sought to promote sound labour relations through the protection and promotion of freedom of association, the encouragement of effective collective bargaining and the promotion of orderly and expeditious dispute settlement, conducive to social justice and economic development.
I dare say that by assenting to this draconian bill into law, President Chakwera has finally graduated from a Pastor to a Dictator. He has demonstrated that he is a President who can lie, considering that when the Bill was first introduced, he cheated civil servants and all Malawians that he was not aware of the Bill. This was a blue lie because all government Bills generated by the Executive arm of Government pass through Cabinet before they are brought before Parliament.
By proceeding to assent to the controversial Bill, President Chakwera has displayed to us that is an arrogant man. He does not like to take advice from the people who gave him and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) the mandate to lead them.
This law has the capacity to reverse the democratic gains made over the past 20 years. It is an attack against the governance architecture of our Constitution and the freedoms that symbolise modern day democratic Malawi.
This amended Labour Relations law will mobilise Malawians with great fear as to what the Tonse Alliance government is up to. The Tonse Alliance government wants to deny workers the freedoms and rights that Malawians fearlessly fought for in the early 1990s. It is regrettable to witness the Tonse Alliance government deliberately diluting the democratic gains achieved over past two decades with reckless abandon.
Assenting to this Bill is very disappointing, especially considering that the government did not make proper consultations with relevant stakeholders and the labour movement in this country to reach a consensus on how workers can seek redress over employment related grievances.
One of the fundamental principles and rights at work is “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”. This government, therefore, has no business denying workers the right to strike. It is a right, which workers and trade unions are entitled to enjoy without any intimidation.
It is my considered opinion that this amended law will take this country back to the dark days of one-party dictatorship. I wish to urge President Chakwera to reverse this decision to avert serious repercussions that may result from mass demonstrations by workers.
Honourable Joseph Nomale, MP
DPP SHADOW MINISTER OF LABOUR
Blantyre, 16 October, 2021