Forwarded Message Follows:
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 07:42:18 -0700
From: NewsHound <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Malawi govt pleads with strikers to return to work
BLANTYRE, April 18 (Reuter) - The Malawi government pleaded with striking health workers on Friday to return to work after the country's main hospital in Blantyre was left able only to deal with emergency cases.
"We're trying our best to plead with them. We're not office workers who deal with papers. We deal with lives. We don't want to end up with unnecessary deaths which will be on our conscience for a long time,'' Chief of Health Services Winstone Sangala, told Reuters.
Health and ambulance services for at least eight hospitals in the country have been affected by the strike.
The Daily Times reported on Friday that 15 hospitalised pregnant women on Thursday marched on Malawi's parliament in Zomba, about 60 km (37 miles) north of Blantyre, to protest against the lack of health services.
The workers are taking part in a nation-wide strike, now in its second week, called by the Civil Servants' Trade Union (CSTU) to push for a 100 percent wage increase as recommended by an independent commission.
The government has however said it can only afford a 47 percent pay increase for its 100,000-strong workforce without upsetting the economy.
A doctor at Blantyre's Queen Elizabeth central hospital said many workers had stayed at home after they were apparently threatened.
The CSTU said earlier it had written to the government proposing mediation to end the strike, but there had been no response.
Malawi's economy is mainly agriculture based. It grew by over nine percent in 1996 and is forecast to grow another seven percent in 1997.