MAPUTO, More than 24,000 companies in Mozambique owe the National Social Security Institute (INSS) some 1.23 billion meticais (about 20.2 million US dollars, at current exchange rates), says Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Vitoria Diogo.

Opening a meeting of the Consultative Council of the General Labour Inspectorate here Wednesday, she disclosed that a total of 24,266 companies are in debt to the INSS.

For many years, the trade unions had complained that although social security contributions are deducted from workers’ wages, the employers often did not pass the contributions on to the INSS, another way in which employers steal from their workers, and it means that when the workers concerned require the benefits, they find they are not covered.

Diogo lamented that many employers continued to submit their workers to degrading conditions, to long working hours, to wage discrimination on the basis of race, and to sexual harassment. Companies were also guilty of employing child labour, and of not respecting health and safety regulations.

One particularly gross violation which occurred at a Chinese-owned company, Ferragem Mariote, was filmed, and the video circulated on social media. It shows a Chinese citizen beating Mozambican workers with an iron bar and the justification for this savage behaviour was that the victims turned up late for work.

Diogo said the company would be punished for this assault, and called for rigorous intervention by the Labour Inspectorate against practices which are an offence to human dignity.

All of these evils corrode the basis of the state of social justice and the democratic rule of law that we are building,” stressed Diogo. The General Labour Inspectorate should continue to prioritise its educational and guiding role, but should also take vigorous and dissuasive measures against those companies which repeatedly violate labour norms.