October 8, 2004

Trade unions reject regional minimum wages

Mozambique's main trade union federation, the OTM, has rejected proposals for a series of regional minimum wages, rather than a national statutory minimum. Addressing a Maputo press conference, OTM chairperson Amos Matsinhe stressed that the current system, whereby a statutory minimum wage is negotiated every year in a the Labour Consultative Commission (CCT), a tripartite forum between the government, the employers and the unions, was best suited to Mozambican reality. Matsinhe stressed that there are no regional governments in Mozambique. Likewise, neither the employers' associations nor the unions were organised on a regional base. The economy itself was not structured in such a way as to facilitate regional bargaining, he added. In short, Matsinhe declared, the country "has no conditions" for fixing wages on a regional basis.
He also called on the government to work in partnership with the OTM "to speed up the definition of trade union rights in the civil service, so that state functionaries may exercise the right to be members of unions". A National Union of Civil Servants was set up in 2001, but it has not been legally recognised. By dragging its feet on this issue, the government has effectively made the civil service a union-free zone.
Matsinhe also stressed that the OTM was fully involved in the current revision of the country's Labour Law. He warned that this was "a process of great importance because of the impact it will have on the lives of workers. This imposes great challenges on us in the struggle to promote and defend the workers' rights and interests". He said the OTM would fight to defend the workers' rights enshrined in the existing law, which employers claim is excessively "protective" of workers. The employers' current offensive seeks to make it easier and cheaper for companies to sack workers. Attempts are made to depict the current law as a hangover from the centralised socialist economy of the past, although in reality the rights it grants workers can also be found in many European countries that are far from socialist. Matsinhe declared that, in the current process of regional integration and globalisation, it is more important than ever to strengthen the trade union movement, and its capacity to intervene in defence of workers. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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