Auction Holdings Limited (AHL) Group is contemplating closing three of its seven subsidiary companies as the firm plunges deeper into a financial meltdown.
The group board chairperson Rhino Chiphiko said this in an interview yesterday after employees started what they termed an indefinite strike over three months unpaid salaries, non-remittance of pension funds and management’s silence on the restructuring strategy.
Chairperson of the striking employees Charles M’bwana said the strike, which is taking place in the group’s offices across the country, will only be called off when all the grievances have been resolved.
He said efforts to liaise with management on the three matters proved futile; hence, the employees resorted to the strike.
“Honestly we are tired of promises and assurances that never come to pass. We are human beings with families to care for, we need to pay rent, provide food, pay school fees, among other expenses. As we are now, people are refusing us credit,” said M’bwana.
He said the company last paid the employees in September 2021 and now they have entered their fourth month without pay.
M’bwana added that the company has not remitted employees pension deductions for 36 months and that employees were only briefed that there will be a restructuring exercise, but there has never been any updates.
Chiphiko, however, said all issues are genuine, but promised that the board hopes to resolve the matters by Wednesday next week.
“All that is true, honestly the group has been sailing through rough economic challenges for a long time. It’s true salaries have not been paid, pension funds have not been remitted because of the same financial problems.
“On the restructuring plans, it’s true as well that we have reached a point where we are planning to close three of our seven subsidiary companies,” he said. But Malawi Congress of Trade Union president Charles Kumchenga said the union is angry with what is happening at the group.
He said: “It’s sad that this should be happening in this Covid-19 era where money is already a problem, on top of that, people are struggling with school fees and farm inputs. In fact this is torture.”
Kumchenga said the group should do its best to identify funds to sort out the salary issue with its employees as the two sides wait to find solutions to the other issues.
When Malawi Metro visited the Lilongwe Auction Floors yesterday morning, the employees had already sealed all gates, but there were no senior managers to attend to them.
They had already lit fire to prepare lunch and were singing songs, warning management that they would not leave until their issues were sorted out.
This is the third time that the group’s employees have downed tools over non-payment of salaries.
The group has over 3000 employees nationwide.