Maputo — The largest of Mozambique's two trade union federations, the OTM (Mozambican workers Organisation) has declared its dissatisfaction at the new minimum wages announced by the government last week.
The new wages resulted from negotiations in the Labour Consultative Council (CCT), the tripartite body between the government, the unions and the employers' associations. Although the OTM is the main representative of Mozambique workers in the CCT, it made no public statement during the negotiations.
Only now, in a statement issued in the run up to the traditional Mayday parade through the streets of Maputo, has the OTM General Secretary, Alexande Munguambe, made clear how unhappy the unions are about the new wages.
“The cost of living has risen dramatically and purchasing power has fallen”, said Munguambe. “This has worsened poverty among those workers who depend on the minimum wage”.
He blamed the poor outcome of the CCT negotiations on the economic crisis in Mozambique which made the outcome of the negotiations “less than what would have been desirable”.
Low wages, high inflation and opportunism and bad faith in fixing consumer prices, he said, had made workers' lives “an incessant struggle for survival”. To make matters worse, many companies were now depriving their workers of job security, opting for short term contracts, although the tasks done by the workers affected are permanent.
Employment was becoming unstable and uncertain. “Often workers go to their workplace without knowing if they will still have a job tomorrow, or whether they will receive a note rescinding their contract”, said Munguambe.
He added that employers in many companies were not open to collective bargaining in their workplaces, and intimidated the most active trade unionists.
Nonetheless the OTM urged all unions to prioritise negotiations on wages and working conditions in each workplace, so that minimum wages at workplace level will be set at a level higher than the statutory minimum decreed by the government.
Munguambe also called on all workers to join the Mayday marches “to say no to the unsustainable cost of living, and no to precarious employment without rights”.
The new increase in the minimum wages range from 5.5 to 21 per cent, depending on sector. The lowest of the new minimum wages is 3,642 meticais (about 56 US dollars) a month for agricultural workers. The highest, for workers in financial services, is 10,400 meticais a month.
At first sight, the government appeared to have been generous with its own workers with a rise of 21 per cent in the public sector. However, that rise is only for those on the minimum state wage, which rises from 3,278 to 3,996 meticais a month. 45,000 state workers, just 13 per cent of the total are on the minimum wage.
Everyone else on the state payroll will receive only an extra 500 meticais (less than eight US dollars) a month. In real terms this is a substantial wage cut, and the government risks losing some of the state's most skilled workers, who may seek work in the private sector.