A few of the striking staff captured in Lilongwe
* Their demand of no pay for two months not true as it’s only top management yet to be paid
* MPC is dealing with a structural issue, where 85% of its revenue pays staff costs
* The struggling parastatal needs to downsize its staff if government is to recapitalize it
* It is inviting applications from those interested to proceed on voluntary retrenchment
By Duncan Mlanjira
One of the demands to be addressed for the industrial sit-in that some Malawi Posts Corporation staff staging is that they haven’t been paid their salaries for the past two months, but management disputes this, saying salaries for all those participating in the sit-in have been honoured — except for management levels which should be concluded soon.
A report by ZBSNews online, MPC’s chairperson for workers union, William Chipoka is quoted as confirming that they haven’t been paid salaries for two months, but in an interview, acting Postmaster General, Zachaeus Meke said this is a misrepresentation of facts on the ground.
He disclosed that MPC staff went on strike three months ago to push Government to consider the challenges which they were facing — including salary delays, demanding 45% salary increment, pension remittances among others.
“The court didn’t find merit in allowing the strike continue since management demonstrated that they were working on sustainable solutions to the challenges. The court granted an injunction restraining the strike from continuing.
“Dialogue was called by the court saying, within 27 days up to September 8th, the issue of salaries as presented by the Union be resolved. The court further indicated that if salaries were not resolved by the date, Union was justified to proceed with the strike.”
Media reports indicate that the strike is nationwide but our investigations have revealed that all the striking staff have duly received their salaries including the Union president Chipoka.
Our source says this made more staff return to work as they didn’t see the need to proceed with the strike. Our on-site visits to Limbe Post Office revealed that officers were working normally and we found no one outside Blantyre Post Office by 13:30hrs.
Our source said Lilongwe Post Office had about 12 members striking and demanding pension remittance while district Post Offices were open for trade.
Few interviews with our sources within the Corporation indicated that Chikopa was far from the truth about two months salary arrears.
Responding to our questionnaire MPC’s public relations officer, Ida Nkolimbo said the issues are not new, but quite surprising because all Union staff received their salaries.
She further said management noted the “long outstanding issues emanating from several years ago and developed a robust plan that seeks to repair all wrong fundamentals that created MPC.
Nkolimbo further hinted that MPC is dealing with a structural issue, where 85% of its revenue pays staff costs.
She further indicated that management had made a submission to government to turnaround with right-sizing as one key reform area and that there was movement on the issue on the part of both management and government.
Reports we have received indicate that MPC has a staff compliment of 804 but requires 250 inorder to be sustainable. This is due to decline in mail volumes by over 95% since the year 2000.
The struggling parastatal needs to downsize its staff compliment as it is overstaffed. Meanwhile, in July, MPC invited applications from those interested to proceed on voluntary retrenchment.
In a memo which we have seen, the staff that apply and meet all requirements shall be given severance allowances in accordance with the Employment Act; a notice pay, leave pay for any accrued days and 40% lump sum from the pension scheme.
The 40% lump sum pension scheme applies for those that have clocked 50 years of age or have continuously worked for MPC for not less than 20 years.
In the circular, management further said it “reserves the right to reject any application for voluntary retrenchment without providing any reason for doing so”.
In June — during an interface with the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Technology — acting Postmaster General, Zachaeus George Meke and MPC Board chairperson, Noel Mkulichi disclosed that MPC is deep in debt of over MK9.3 billion that is compromising its operations and for it to remain afloat, it needs to be recapitalized by government as the initial stage of turning around.
One of the measures is for the statutory corporation to downsize its staff compliment from 806 to around 310, which is in excess and “need to pay them off in order to restart on good footing”.
MPC was established 2000 and has over 180 post offices across the country, of which 60 are economically viable while 120 are just running as social services generating as little as MK5,000 in three months while others general nothing per month.
In an earlier interview, Meke hinted that the corporation’s staff costs stood at 110% of revenues during the 2019/2020 — signaling that the corporation could not raise enough for salaries, thus urgency to downsize so that its should remain afloat.
MPC started struggling from 2000 when it was established after the split of MPTC, which is mainly due to an upsurge in communication technologies.
The statutory corporation was supposed to be given yearly funding to support the loss making post offices which only came 5 times in its 21-year history leaving out 16 years in unsupported service.
MPC was established to operate postal, financial and other related services. The parastatal used to own Malawi Savings Bank that was delinked from MPC thereby exacerbating its financial position.
Meke recently told the media that MPC has set up a turnaround strategy aimed at transforming MPC into a digitally driven organisation and some of the developments include digitally driven courier, system based ticketing for the bus, introduce e-commerce platform, virtual Post Office, Post Bank among others.
“We are reshaping MPC from being a socially service provider to become a commercially driven business organisation that also target the rural masses to fully profit from,” he had said.
MPC has an intercity passenger coach services fleet that complements its national courier service and plans are underway to introduce plush city bus services which the country had in the past.