Mozambique: We Don’t Want to Pay the Debts, Say Unions

Maputo – Mozambican workers “do not want to pay for a commercial debt contracted by companies”, declared Alexandre Munguambe, General Secretary of the country’s main trade union federation, the OTM (Organisation of Mozambican Workers), at the traditional May Day parade in Maputo on Sunday.

Munguambe was referring to the three government guaranteed debts run up by state or quasi state companies in 2013-2014. There are three of these debts, contracted by the Mozambique Tuna Company (EMATUM), Proindicus which is intended to provide maritime security, and Mozambique Assets Management (MAM), set up for maritime repairs and maintenance.

All three companies are effectively state-owned, yet their purposes are clearly commercial – EMATUM is supposed to sell tuna, Proindicus should sell security services, particularly to the oil and gas companies operating in Mozambican waters, while MAM was also to sell services to shipping concerns. Yet so far none of the companies shows any sign of making a profit, and so the State is obliged to pay their debts.

Munguambe told the May Day rally that these foreign debts had been contracted “on non-transparent terms”, and Mozambican workers saw no reason why they should pay the invoice for the debts.

“The debtor companies should be made operational and profitable so that they can pay the debts in full”, he declared.

“We encourage the government to continue providing the due explanations about the foreign debt, and to make efforts to restore trust among Mozambican society and international cooperation partners”, Munguambe added.

He also denounced the violent acts committed by the rebel movement Renamo. This instability caused by Renamo, Munguambe said, “is holding back investment, worsening unemployment and perpetuating the poverty that we workers are fighting against”.

“We demand an end to the killings and destruction undertaken in pursuit of political goals”, Munguambe declared. “We want to live in peace and harmony, face the challenges of development, fight unemployment, and eradicate poverty in a context of security and tranquillity. It is the wish of all Mozambican workers to see the guns silenced and a dialogue without pre-conditions resumed”.

The union leader noted that the grievances presented by workers on the May Day marches last year have not been solved, and “the cost of living remains unbearable for most workers”.

Despite repeated calls by the trade union movement for the enforcement of the country’s labour laws, he added, workers were still being sacked without just cause, and employers were ignoring basic health and safety rules. Although a law of 1992 envisaged labour tribunals to deal with labour disputes, these had still not been set up.

The increase in the statutory minimum wages announced last month were what it was possible to achieve in the Labour Consultative Council, the tripartite negotiating forum between the government, the unions and the employers’ associations, “but they remain below the expectations of the workers”, said Munguambe.

He pledged that the trade unions will continue to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions, workplace by workplace.

SOURCE: Mozambique News Agency