July 19, 2007

Strike at sugar plantation, company guards opened fire

Seasonal workers at the Mafambisse sugar plantation in the central Mozambican province of Sofala have been on a two day strike. The 4,000 workers have staged a wildcat strike, demanding a wage rise, overtime pay, and a reduction in what they regarded as the excessive work load that the company, owned by the South African group Tongaat Hulett, had imposed.
Company guards opened fire on the strikers, killed one and injuring three others. According to a report of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the company made two major concessions in the negotiations, mediated by the Sofala provincial director of labour, Omar Jalilo. They agreed to raise the wages of cane cutters from 66 to 92 meticais a day (about an extra US dollar a day).The company also pledged to respect the provision in the labour law which states that the normal working day is eight hours long. The workers had complained that they were obliged to work 14 hours a day and the company did not pay for this six hours a day of compulsory overtime. The company also promised to provide protective clothing for the workers within four weeks.
However, there is no agreement yet on the wages of the other plantation workers, whose wages ranged from 44 to 62 meticais a day. The workers had demanded that these be lifted to between 85 and 95 meticais a day. The workers praised Jalilo's efforts in the negotiations - but turned down his plea to return to work. They said they intended to remain on strike until a satisfactory solution is reached for the wages of the other seasonal workers.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) are investigating the origins of the bullets that killed the 23 year old worker and wounded three other strikers. The workers insist that the shots were fired by the head of the Mafambisse security force. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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