Minister of Labour and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa says Government designated the labour sector as a strategic and priority area to champion job creation and skills development.
Mussa said government decided to embark on the initiative considering that a skilled labour force contributes to economic growth and improved living standards of the whole nation.
“The country’s leadership has elevated the ministry of labour to a strategic and priority sector to champion job creation through skills development for employment creation to effectively contribute to socio – economic development of the country,” Mussa said.
Mussa said the development was an opportunity for social partners to translate the political will into reality and demonstrate to Malawians the centrality of labour and employment in the national development.
He was speaking Tuesday in Mangochi when he opened a three – day National Tripartite Social Dialogue Forum with representatives from the Government, Malawi Congress of Trade Union and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi under the theme, ‘Leveraging the human resource to drive a productive economy.’
The Minister observed that major players in the labour industry were the government, employer and employee who were supposed to be meeting on a mutual understanding to discuss on how to improve labour relations for a more productive nation.
Mussa pointed out that not a long time ago there was a lot of confrontational in labour related issues which was now a thing of the past due to harmonized resolutions, structured discussions dealing with challenges companies or employers were facing.
“The bottom in all this is that government would like to see more productivity in the labour sector and particularly how the labour industry would contribute to the socio – economic growth of the country,” he added.
Commenting on the recent spate of strikes, Mussa while expressing government’s concern over the increasing number of sit – ins, described most the industrial strikes as illegal. He said while the law under section 45 of the Labour Relations Act provides for the right to strike, it was clear that strikes were supposed to be a last resort.
He said section 47 prohibits employer of employee carrying on or engaged in an essential service not to strike or lock – out in connection with such essential services. Meanwhile, the employees of the Judiciary and the Anti – Corruption Bureau are currently on strike.
“A strike is supposed to be staged only after all peaceful means of settling a dispute have failed. It is the responsibility of everyone to promote workers education and awareness campaign so that workers and trade union leaders understand Labour Relations Act,” Mussa emphasised.
On this note, Mussa disclosed that labour ministry officials would make a presentation on the yet to be established government Community Technical Colleges across the country which are aimed at promoting skills development for socio – economic national and poverty reduction.
President of Malawi Congress of Trade Union, Chauluka Muwake threatened that the Union would soon publish all employers who were exploiting their employees by naming and shaming to force them in a bid to force them to improve working conditions of workers.
“Naturally, trade unions are interested in productivity because it turns out to have an effect on the economy. We cannot talk of poverty reduction when there’s disproportionate wealth between an employer and employee,” Muwake noted.
Muwake also echoed Mussa on strikes, calling on concerned parties to pursue other ways of striking a common understanding to avoid bringing the economy on its knees, saying: “the economy cannot grow if we all choose to go on strike.”
Employers Consultative Association of Malawi President, Emmanuel Banda ECAM has noted with pride that government has put measures to limit misuse of public resources following the Cashgate, saying the stringent measures will bring confidence in public finance management.
However, Banda appealed to government to consider investing in Small and Medium Enterprises which were facing teething problems like capitalization and costing, noting that the manufacturing sector could play a very crucial role in ensuring that the country has high exportable goods to grow the economy and sustain employment.