Maputo — Workers of the state company Transmaritima, which operates the ferry service across the bay of Maputo, from the centre of the city to the outlying neighbourhood of Katembe, went on strike on Monday morning demanding payment of their New Year bonus for 2016.
This bonus is equivalent to an extra month's pay, and so is usually referred to as “the 13th month”. The Transmaritima management says the company does not have the money to pay it.
The strikers also protested that social security contributions deducted from their ages are not being sent to the National Social Security Institute (INSS) and demanded the resignation of the Transmartima board of directors.
People who live in Katembe but work or study in Maputo, and vice versa, are dependent on Transmaritima. The service was already poor because one of the two ferries is out of order. Now with neither of the boats running, anyone who wanted to cross the bay had to catch smaller (and more expensive) private vessels.
At the entrance to the Transmaritima quay on the Maputo side, workers had placed placards bearing slogans such as “Down with the high wages of the members of the Board!”, “Down with the mismanagement of the Board!”, “Down with the delays in paying our wages!”
One of the strikers, who gave his name only as Aurelio, told AIM that the Transmaritima workers have been trying to negotiate better conditions since 2009, but without success. He stressed they would only return to work once they are paid what the company owes them.
The chairperson of the Transmaritima board, Jafar Ruby, went to the quay, in an attempt to persuade the workers to abandon the strike. He told reporters he was trying to negotiate a “half way house” that would calm the situation.
“People want the thirteenth month”, he said, “but the companies have been instructed to pay only when their balance is positive. We aren't refusing to pay, but we're only going to pay when the conditions exist for us to pay”.
He also attacked the low fares which Transmaritime is obliged to charge. “Crossing the bay on the ferry costs just five meticais (about eight US cents)”, Ruby said. “A litre of fuel costs more than 50 meticais. How many passengers are needed to buy just one litre? More than ten”.
Transmaritima employs 230 people on ferry crossing in various parts of the country, and 141 of them are in Maputo.
According to a note from the Labour Ministry, by about midday the strikers and the management had reached consensus, and the strikers returned to work. The note did not explain the nature of this consensus.