Malawi medical doctors join strike, demand 65 pct pay hike

Mothers watch their babies after delivery at a public hospital
Mothers watch their babies after delivery at a public hospital

Medical doctors in Malawi have joined the on-going public sector strike to demand for better pay, pilling pressure on President Joyce Banda who is attempting to right a sputtering economy and prepare for re-election next year.

President of the Medical Doctors Union Dr Jerome Nkambule said in a statement they are only going to resume their normal duties once the demands, as said by the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU), have been fully met.

But he was quick to say that they are going to maintain skeleton staff to deal with emergency cases in different public hospital across the country.

More than 100,000 public sector workers went on strike last week demanding a 65 percent wage increase –about double the inflation rate – to counter a rising cost of living triggered by a devaluation of the local currency.

The strike has led to the  closure of schools and forced street protests by pupils in the main cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre demanding their right to education.

On Wednesday the main airport in the capital Lilongwe was shut down, piling pressure on President Joyce Banda who took office last year pledging painful economic reforms to correct the economy

Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines cancelled flights to Lilongwe on Wednesday and Thursday.

Finance Minister Ken Lipenga said on Tuesday that the government could not afford to increase wages and was negotiating with the striking workers.

President Banda has instituted painful economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund and donors since winning office last year. Aid traditionally accounts for about 40 percent of the budget.

IMF mission chief to Malawi said there were “encouraging signs” that Malawi’s economy is on the mend, with foreign exchange more available and good rains set to increase farm output. The IMF also recommended cutting or postponing non-essential spending.