MAPUTO, Mozambique’s main trade union federation, the Mozambican Workers’ Organisation, (OTM) has threatened to organize street demonstrations if the government accepts a demand from employers to freeze wages next year.

The Chairman of the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA), Agostinho Vuma, last week asked the government to impoze a freeze on wages and further austerity measures, even though living standards of Mozambican workers are already falling.

In addition to a public sector wage freeze, he wants to cancel the New Year bonus, or “13th month pay, because it is equivalent to payment of an extra month’s wages, and to freeze promotions.

OTM General Secretary Alexandre Munguambe, at a media conference here Tuesday, warned the government not to accept Vuma’s proposals. If it did, we shall go onto the streets to protest, he warned. The OTM reserves the right to take vigorous measures to defend the rights of workers throughout the country, he added.

If the government followed the proposals outlined by Vuma, there would be an escalation of economic and social instability in the productive sector, he said

Should the government think it necessary to suspend the 13th month pay, it should discuss the matter first with the OTM and explain why it believed such a drastic measure had to be taken, he added.

They have to come and explain this to the unions. Payment of the 13th month is not a favour done to the workers. If there’s a problem they have to tell us about it. Let’s sit down and talk. The invoice for this current crisis must not be paid only by the workers, he said.

Vuma’s proposal comes at a time when real wages are falling largely because of the sharp depreciation of the national currency, the metical, and an accompanying rise in inflation in 2016 when it reached 23.67 per cent, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).

Increases in the statutory minimum wages that took effect in April came nowhere near compensating for this. Those rises, depending on sector, ranged from 5.5 to 21 per cent. The minimum wage in the public administration is now 3,996 meticais (66 US dollars) a month. It is quite impossible for a family to live decently on this amount.