Workers fault government on blackouts

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The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) and Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) have said Capital Hill is not doing enough in dealing with power blackouts, a development, they say, is hindering efforts by the private sector to improve salaries, wages and working conditions of workers.

Speaking during the launch of the decent work programme in tea estates, MCTU Secretary General, Dennis Kalekeni, wondered why the government was not addressing the issue of power blackouts with speed.

“How do you expect a company to pay its employees well when it spends more of its money on generators to run its operations? These have affected operations of companies and our calls for better perks are sometimes not adhered to by institutions,” Kalekeni said.

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However, Minister of Labour, Francis Kasaila, said it was naïve for the union and other sectors to blame the government on power blackouts considering that more investment programmes have been introduced since President Peter Mutharika came to power in 2014.

He said the government is also encouraging Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to partner Escom and Egenco in power generation so that the issue of power blackouts can be dealt with.

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“It, therefore, does not make sense for some sectors to say that they cannot pay good salaries to their employees on the pretext that they are making losses due to blackouts. We are watching them and government engages some of these companies that make profits but don’t care about their employees,” Kasaila explained.

Taml Chairperson, Sangwani Hara, said, while the government has embarked on various investment projects in the energy sector, speed is of essence.

“What we are saying is that we lose out a lot through power blackouts. If the country has enough power, employees would be accorded what they deserve,” Hara said.

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In a recent business survey, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry lamented that the private sector has lost a lot due to blackouts.

The business body also wondered as to why Capital Hill is not providing licences to IPPs so that they can generate more power to curb the problem.

But the Ministry of Energy has remained upbeat that IPPs would rollout their power generation operations soon since it has already issued licences to those that were successful following a tender process.

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