BLANTYRE--Workers at Malawi's biggest investment uranium mining firm owned by an Australian firm have gone on strike demanding a pay hike, despite a top official of Paladin Africa saying Tuesday the industrial action was "illegal" because it was initiated by a "small militant core" of the estimated 1 ,000 workers.
The workers, in a letter on Friday to the management, gave an ultimatum of 24 hours for their demands to be met.
They said since the local currency was devalued by almost 33 percent, "we national employees are of the opinion that our salaries should be adjusted in line with the devaluation."
The workers at the 185 million dollars (148 million Euros) project, the biggest foreign investment in Malawi so far, said Paladin Africa was an international company with a "budget and functional currency in US dollars."
They said the company will not suffer any loss if they adjusted their salaries because their perks were already pegged in dollars.
The company's managing director John Borshoff said in a statement the firm at Kayekelera mine in the northern Malawi district of Karonga had refused to "accede to an unprecedented demand to grant an immediate 66 percent pay increase following the recent 50 percent devaluation of the national currency, the kwacha, by the government of Malawi."
He said the demands were "unrealistic and extremely unfortunate." He said the strike, the first of its kind since the mine opened in 2009, was provoked by a "small militant core" of workers.
The company was hoping workers would return to work Tuesday after senior officers from the Ministry of Labour were dispatched to the site to hammer a deal with the strikers.
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment