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Striking Malawi Judiciary Workers Resume Work

Judiciary workers in Malawi have ended a nearly two-month long strike that paralyzed the judicial system and left prison and police cells overflowing with crime suspects.

VOA learned that judicial workers in the capital, Lilongwe returned to work Friday, while those in commercial capital Blantyre say will resume work on Monday. Workers in the northern city of Mzuzu were meeting Friday morning to chart the way forward.

The move reversed their decision Monday to continue with the strike despite government threats to close the courts and withhold the workers' January salaries

The strikers said the decision to end the strike followed several meetings between the workers and government authorities.

“I would like to confirm to all Malawians that the strike which was being staged by judiciary workers has come to an end after we have had some discussions with government and we have resolved the matter,” said Mlenga Mvula, a spokesperson for the judiciary workers

The judiciary workers began boycotting work last November to push the government to increase their salaries by 45 percent, similar to increases given to other civil servants.

But Malawi President Peter Mutharika said in his recent state of the nation address that his government would not meet the strikers’ demands because of financial constraints.

At recent talks in Lilongwe, the strikers rejected a government offer of a 30 percent salary increase.

Mvula declined to disclose how much has been agreed upon but says the offer is satisfactory.

“Let me tell you that we haven’t been given what we had been demanding looking at the economic situation the government has been telling us,” Mvula said. “The offer which the government gave us is a satisfactory in nature and we have accepted it.”

Lawyers, human rights groups and police said the strike was not fair to defendants awaiting trial.

Last month, government authorities threatened to close the courts and withhold January salaries if the staff failed to return to work by January 5.