by Cyprian Ndau
LILONGWE, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The two-week industrial action Malawi civil servants staged ended on Friday following government's new salary structure of 61 percent salary increment to lowest public servant.
The new salary structure was announced at a press briefing held in the capital on Thursday evening following a day-long meeting between the government and Malawi Civil Servants Trade Union (MSCTU) leaders on concerns raised by the latter.
The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Thursday which among other things offered 61 percent pay increment to the lowest ranking servant and 5 percent increment to highest raking.
The 11-point MoU said the new salary structure would be implemented from March, 2013, while arrears for January and February would be paid in July.
"There will be a salary review in July 2013 and the two parties will continue consultations on all outstanding issues," reads the MoU, adding "the first meeting between the two parties in relation to the 2013/2013 Budget will be heard on 19th March 2013."
The agreement also says the review of other conditions of services for civil servants shall be done in consultations with the MCSTU.
"..The parties are committed to harmonize resolutions and the on-going industrial action will be called off by the CSTU upon the signing of the MoU," it further reads.
Initially, the civil servants' petition had demanded mainstreaming of lowest ranking public servant's salary to a minimum of MK75,000 (around 210 U.S. dollars) and that the salary for public servant with a degree (professional grade) should be mainstreamed to a minimum of MK186,000.
Before new salary structure reached on Feb. 21, lowest paid public servants in Malawi got a salary of around 55 U.S. dollars while a public servant with a degree got around 180 U.S. dollars.
With the new salary structure, the lowest ranking civil servants will now be getting about 89 U.S. dollars while the highest ranking will be getting about 190 U.S. dollars.
MSCTU President told journalist after the signing ceremony that although the government had not met the civil servants' demands to the letter, the Union was encouraged by the commitment that government had shown during the negotiations.
"As unions our major focus was on the lowest paid civil servant and we are very glad that we have managed to get 61 percent for them and I hope they will appreciate that we have tried our best," said Kamphinda.
On the other hand, the GNT Chair Ben Botolo said given the current status of the country's economy, the new salary structure was a very hard decision to make on part of the government.
"The civil servants demands were hard to meet and we had to source a sum of MK5.7 billion from within the 2012/2013 budget that Parliament approved," said Botolo.
"To source that, we had to cut some specific votes and I have to emphasize that this was a hard decision to make as we were caught in between continuing with the services in the budget and letting the servants continue living the way they were," said Botolo.
When MSCTU President broke the news to thousands of civil servants who had gathered at government headquarters in the capital on Friday, there was jubilation and ululation among the civil servants.
They danced, sang and congratulated each other for the won battle.
"We welcome the new salary structure," one low-ranking public servant told Xinhua. "Although it is not the best we hoped to get, but the fact that our salaries will be reviewed again in July gives us hope that we will get there."
The civil servants' strike which had been a mere "stay away" at first wore an ugly face on Wednesday, when public servants across the country took to the streets and marched peacefully to government offices where they presented a petition.
Following the industrial action which collapsed some crucial sectors such as health, civil aviation, and education, primary school pupils from Blantyre City down south and Lilongwe City in the center took to the streets in protest against halted lessons.
Things nearly went out of hand when Malawi police clashed with pupils in Lilongwe on Thursday whom they dispersed using tear gas.