Casualisation, or temporary employment, has come under a spate of criticism from Malawian labour unions but the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) has defended the practice saying the high cost of doing business in the Southern African country could be behind development.
Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) Secretary General, Austin Kalimanjira, said in Blantyre on Wednesday that commercial and industrial workers were the most affected, most of whom, he said, cart home an average of US$4 PER fortnight.
"We have sold our rights in the name of foreign direct investment, and the government is just quite on that. Malawians should now learn to stand up for their rights, otherwise we wii be forced to marrch," said Kalimanjira.
According to the labour unions boss, the worst culprits are multi-national companies, most of which pay the workers wages far much below those accorded to people doing the same kind of job in neighbouring countries, compelling him to speculate that it may be because government policies are too lax on the issue.
But Vincent Singini, Ecam Executive Director, parried aside the accusations saying labour unions should not be blind to the fact that the cost of doing business was high in Malawi as compared to other African countries.
Singini cited a 2004 report on doing business in Malawi that revealed wide-spread discontent among business people and foreign investors when it comes to processing business certificates and permits.
" Investors are profit-ariented and will always share the costs of conducting business with their domestic workers and , unfortunately, it it the ordinary citizen who bears the brunt of upside policies," he said, adding policy makers also had a fair share of the blame as they allowed individuals and foreign companies possing as investors to venture into petty businesses thus crowding out indeginous Malawians.
Thomas Phiri,8, now retired said he has worked under temporary employment deals for over 30 years but had nothing to show off for his sweat because "I was receiving peanuts all along and all the time I kept saying, 'perhaps one day things will change,nothing changed and here I am"'.
He is one of the people who took part in thje construction of Chayamba building, one of the tallest buildings in Blantyre City Centre, but noew lives in a rumshuckle house on the outskirts of the commercial city.