Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Malawi

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Malawi, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 12,600,000
Capital: Lilongwe
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Employer resistance to union activity and the poor enforcement of union rights legislation continue to be a problem, particularly in the export processing zones.

Trade union rights in law

Rights recognised in theory: Workers have the right to form and join trade unions. This includes civil servants, with the exception of army personnel and the police. Unions must register with the Ministry of Labour, although this is largely a formality. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and requires that workers sacked because of union activities, must be reinstated.

Cumbersome strike procedures: Registered unions may strike. However, strike action can only be taken after all dispute settlement and conciliation procedures have been exhausted. The employer and the Ministry of Labour must be given at least seven days' notice. Workers in essential services have a limited right to strike. The law does not specifically prohibit retaliation against strikers.

Collective bargaining is recognised in law, provided the union represents at least 20 per cent of employees at enterprise level. At a sectoral level, unions must represent at least 15 per cent of employees. In the absence of collective agreements, the law provides for industrial councils to set wages and conditions and resolve disputes.

Labour laws apply in the export processing zones (EPZs).

Trade union rights in practice

Employer resistance: Since barely 10 per cent of workers are in formal employment, the labour legislation automatically excludes the vast majority of workers in the informal economy. For the small minority in formal jobs, the resistance of some employers, including the government, towards respecting their rights, limits freedom of association and collective bargaining. The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions has reported in recent years on a number of cases where workers are badly mistreated, and where employers appear unaware that workers have employment rights by law.

Ineffective legislation: Ambiguities in the application of the law, especially the right to strike, and continuing government interference in trade union activities, reduce the effectiveness of the law to protect workers. The law does not specify exactly which services are essential, enabling the authorities to declare strikes illegal.

Many companies in the EPZs resist union activity, while the unions complain that they have little access to workers in the zones.

Enforcement of legislation by the Ministry of Labour is ineffective. In addition, it was reported in 2005 that there were signs of collusion between the government and some employers against trade union activists.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld