Maputo — Private security companies in Mozambique are imposing inhuman conditions on their workers, according to an investigation undertaken by the independent daily "O Pais".
There has been a boom in private security in recent years, with the result that over 50 security companies are registered with the Interior Ministry, employing more than 30,000 workers.
These workers complain that they are not paid overtime, and that in some cases their employers do not even pay the statutory minimum wage. Workers told "O Pais" that "overtime is just on paper - we're not paid for it. We work shifts of 14 hours".
Some even said that they worked 24 hours without a break. "Our bosses always promise to increase the number of workers, but it never happens", they said. "We work 24 hour shifts and we earn 3,600 meticais (129 US dollars) a month".
Some of the companies pay wages late, and although they deduct social security contributions from their workers' wages, they do not channel the money to the National Social Security Institute (INSS).
"O Pais" found that in one case, Al Mahid Internacional, the workers had not been granted any holidays since 2007. Challenged about this, the company management recognised that the workers' complaints were justified, but claimed that the company was now overcoming its difficulties, as shown by the fact that there were no longer any wage arrears, and the debt to the INSS had been paid. This company was thus boasting of things that ought to be absolutely normal for any employer.
Workers spoke to "O Pais" on condition of anonymity and some refused to allow their voices to be recorded for fear of reprisals.
Of the 50 companies, less than 10 are complying with the requirements that the government has demanded of such companies. They do not have proper offices, they do not have training facilities for their staff, and they do not have vehicles much less medical posts that can assist workers in what is a high risk profession.
"O Pais" found that only two of the companies, Group Four Securicor (G4S) and SSP, had medical facilities.
In some cases, it was difficult to locate company offices. The paper found that SSA Seguranca was operating out of a flat where members of the management live. The man who called himself General Supervisor was wearing shorts and a vest when he received the reporters, yet claimed he was working. He refused to show the paper the permit authorizing the company to provide security services.
Labour Minister Helena Taipo has promised to take action against companies that force their staff to work unpaid overtime. The standard working day is eight hours long, and in cases where workers work longer hours, this overtime must be negotiated, and must always be paid for.