Maputo — Mozambican Labour Minister Helena Taipo on Thursday strongly defended the government against accusations by the Confederation of Business Associations (CTA) that public holidays have been decreed without adequate consultation.
The CTA was angered when Taipo's ministry declared public holiday on 2 and 3 January, thus giving Mozambicans a five day New Year weekend.
A further ad-hoc public holiday was declared on 7 February in the country's municipalities, supposedly to allow people to attend the ceremonies at which the newly elected municipal assemblies took office.
At the opening of the first session this year of the Labour Consultative Commission (CCT, the tripartite negotiating forum between the government, the trade unions and the CTA), Taipo blamed the dispute on “lack of communication” within the CTA.
She said that the CTA is fully aware that when consultations occur they are between the general secretary of the CCT, representing the government, the general secretaries of the two trade union federations, the OTM and CONSILMO, and the head of the CTA's labour portfolio.
“It's very strange that the people charged with consultations say that there was consultation but those who are not part of the CTA consultation team claim there was no consultation”, said Taipo. “Isn't the CTA raising a false problem?
Is it fair that the CTA's internal communication problems should damage the efforts of others?”
The Minister stressed that nothing has changed in the working practices of the CCT in the 20 years since it was set up. So it was difficult for her to understand that members of the CTA should be unaware of consultations between the bodies that comprise the CCT.
Under the Labour Law, the Minister can declare additional holidays whenever she sees fit, Taipo said, but in practice she had not done so without prior consultation. “The government is in favour of tripartite consultations”, she insisted. “That is the true face of CCT over the years. This leads us to ask what could be the motivations, the interest in not recognizing publicly the good offices and results achieved by the CCT”.
She pointed out that the Mozambican model of consultation has been recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a model to be followed by other countries, “and this should fill us with pride”.
Taipo also criticized, as a further example of poor communication inside the CTA, a recent meeting at which CTA chairperson Rogerio Manuel had severely criticized her because the government had supposedly approved new regulations for the hiring of foreign workers. But in fact no new regulations had been approved, and the government was still discussing the matter, at the request of the CTA, including written contributions from the CTA.
As for CTA complaints about the unpredictability of the extra holidays decreed by the government, Taipo said this was sometimes inevitable.
The government decrees holidays for religious groups on key dates in their faiths - but these are not always fixed calendar dates. Thus Ide-ul Fitr, which marks the end of the moslem fasting month of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the new moon by local religious authorities.
“We can't have prior knowledge of this”, said Taipo. “Furthermore, it always involves a great deal of controversy among the community requesting the holiday” (a reference to the dispute among Islamic groups as to the true date of Ide-ul Fitr).
“This obliges us to undertake flexible, not very bureaucratic consultation, with the least amount of polemic possible”, she said.
She suggested that the CTA and the unions alike should look at the experience of other countries in the region. Taipo said that in South Africa, workers had been given 15 days off in December alone “yet the South African economy continues to grow”.
The row over ad-hoc holidays has led to the resignation of the head of the CTA labour portfolio, Adelino Buque, who admitted that he did not consult anyone else in the CTA about the 2 and 3 January public holidays. He claimed that he had been unable to contact other CTA leaders by phone, and so had taken the decision on his own.