May 30, 2011

Cashew workers on strike

About 600 workers of the cashew processing factory Olam Mocambique, in the northern province of Nampula, have gone on strike in protest against cuts in their wages. The strikers have been demonstrating in front of the Olam premises in Nampula city, and demanding "We want our money!" The demonstrators, cited by Mozambique Television (TVM), say that the contracts they signed with the company give them a monthly wage of 1.680 meticais (about 56 US dollars at current exchange rates), but in recent months these wages had suffered "drastic cuts". "Now the bosses say that the amount we earn depends on the quantity of cashew nuts that we shell", said one of the protesters.

Discussions have been held between the Nampula provincial labour authorities and the company to solve the problem, but apparently there is no solution in sight. Olam is insisting that it will only pay the workers (who are mostly women) according to their monthly production. The company claims that there are workers who only go to the factory to sign in, and do not show any commitment to their work. The strikers, however, have pledged that they would not return to work, until the company honours their contracts. Furthermore, they are demanding improvements in their working conditions, which they regard as "precarious". "We don't have decent meals", the strikers say. "Every day we eat badly cooked maize porridge with beans, without vegetable oil or other important ingredients".

They also protest that the premises have no toilets - they thus have to relieve themselves on the nearby railway tracks in the open air. Apart from violating a basic worker's right, this is an affront to public health. Even the monthly wage of 1.680 meticais in the workers' contracts seems illegal. The statutory minimum wage for industrial workers rose from 2.497 to 3.100 meticais a month in April. (AIM)

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