Maputo — Pilots, stewards and other cabin staff on Mozambique Airlines (LAM) began an indefinite strike on Sunday, leading to the cancellation of several LAM flights.
The strikers say that they announced their attention to take strike action more than two months ago, because the company’s Board of Directors is taking no steps to deal with grievances that were presented over five years ago.
Some LAM workers, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals, said their demands include higher wages, allowances for night work, and life insurance, which has not been guaranteed since 2005.
“They say that the life insurance is guaranteed, but there’s no proof of this. For more than five years we haven’t signed any insurance documents”, one of the strikers told reporters. “The signature should be annual.
The last group that signed was in 2005, and we can’t go on working under these conditions”. The workers say they are angered by the attitude of the current LAM management. When it took office, about a year ago, it promised to solve the workers’ problems promptly, but it has done nothing, they accuse. “Six months ago, the new management received us twice.
They said they were aware of our concerns, and promised they would solve them speedily, but that has not happened”, another striker said. The letter giving written notice of the strike was received by the LAM Management and by the Transport Ministry on 12 November.
However, Transport Minister Paulo Zucula told reporters on Friday that he was unaware of the strike threat, and was hearing it for the first time from the press. The LAM Chief Executive Officer, Marlene Manave, said the threat took her by surprise, since the problems of the cabin crew had been regularly discussed “in the appropriate forums”.
She added that the cabin crew are the most highly paid workers in the company. A wage increase was recently approved, and will take effect as from January. Negotiations between representatives of the workers and the LAM management took place over the weekend, but no consensus could be reached.
The LAM director of operations, Joao Abreu, said the management is willing to resume the negotiations.
He promised to solve some of the workers’ concerns by the end of November, and the rest by January. But Abreu also claimed that the strike is illegal, because LAM is a public company which should guarantee a minimum of services, which is not happening. He also complained that the strikers are appearing in their uniforms, which they should only wear when on duty.
The strike comes just two days after LAM announced the acquisition of two more aircraft, both leased from foreign companies, essentially to boost the company’s domestic services.