Yesterday, majority of civil servants woke up fully aware they were to stay away from work following an announcement of the same by the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) the past few weeks.
But by mid morning, government through its negotiating team had issued a statement claiming that dialogue had taken place the same morning and the sit-in had therefore been cancelled, a development CSTU vehemently disputes.
A speck of doubt whether this statement was done with good intention arose when the CSTU denied that it has co-authored the statement. This confusion led to the majority of civil servants getting divided with some implementing the sit in while others went to work.
This confusion is self made and smacks of some immaturity somewhere. To begin with, it has taken CSTU a chunk of time, effort and commitment to organise the stay away and civil servants were well informed about this. Government too was aware of the dates and the reasons for the sit in, which border on poor working conditions, low pay and lack of communication on staff grievances from Capital Hill.
Now, conflicting statements from the government negotiating team and CSTU are only achieving one thing; eroding the trust the civil servants have in their umbrella body. Similarly, one would wonder why the government negotiating team waited till the actual day of the strike to resume negotiations and call off the strike.
We see lack of seriousness from both sides who claim to hold their respective positions on the sit-in in the name of the good of Malawians. Just like CSTU argues that public servants are tired of being given a raw deal on their welfare, it has also given the same civil servants a raw deal by failing to reinforce the implementation of the stay away.
For all we know, government will sometime propose dialogue as a delaying tactic to the intended event knowing full well that it will not meet the demands.
CSTU should do more than just refuting the cancellation but rather clearly tell civil servants what to do instead of guessing what they have to do.
Already some civil servants would take the strike announcement or the confusion surrounding it with a wide grin and abscond work. But even those that are hard working would find it difficult to stay determined amidst such confusion.
It should be remembered that we are talking of close to 200, 000 people who are at the hub of government business and their work, or lack of it, is a big deal for this country's development. Their failure to deliver is a failure for us all. The two parties should start making sense.
Let dialogue proceed only if there is serious commitment to deal with issues at hand or let the civil servants speak out the way they see fit but it is unfair to toy them around with conflicting messages.