Monday, September 28, 2009

Malawian workers exploited

Government has threatened to close all exploitative foreign companies in a latest swipe at foreign investors it accuses of ill-treating local workers.
Labour Minister Yunus Mussa said government would not hesitate to close companies bent at making profits at the expense of Malawian workers, as there can never be sustainable social-economic development should local workers continue to live on
‘hand-to-mouth’ basis.
“There is high level exploitation of Malawian workers. This is evident in the fact that almost all foreign companies pay our workers poorly, paying them in exactitude of the minimum wage of K129 per hour. The minimum wage is just a guideline, it doesn’t mean our workers should be paid exactly that amount,” said Mussa.
Mussa has since threatened to close two prominent foreign owned companies, including Exclusive Garments, on accusations of local workers’ exploitation.
“We will not hesitate to close exploitative companies. We have just discovered that the level of workers’ exploitation is very high and unprecedented in Malawi, and will do all we can to come to the root of the problem. Government doesn’t rule out mass deportations of exploiters,” said Mussa.
It is not the first time a high level government official has taken a swipe at foreign investors; State President, Bingu wa Mutharika, has often attacked investors for offering poor agricultural produce prices.
Just this month, government deported three top bosses from some of the country’s biggest tobacco companies, accusing them of fixing tobacco prices and sabotaging the economy.
But government has not always had its way. A wrangle currently rages on with the country’s cotton buyers over this year’s cotton prices. The Cotton Development Association wants to by cotton at between K36 and K42 per kg, contrary to the government set price of K75 per kg.
The price wrangle has meant delayed market openings for cotton, with one of the country’s top cotton buying companies pulling out of the market to concentrate on grain trading.
Most of the cotton companies are foreign owned, and are now buying from Zambian and Mozambican farmers. Government has threatened to deport their top bosses, a threat yet to materialize.
“These companies are in my firing range,” said Mutharika recently, raising fears he would soon strike at industry bosses.

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