November 5, 2002

MOZAMBIQUE: 120,000 Jobs lost, say unions

The structural adjustment programme under way in Mozambique since 1987, with its privatisation of well over a thousand formerly state-run companies, has led to 120,000 workers losing their jobs, according to the country's largest trade union federation, the OTM.

The OTM is currently holding its fourth congress in the southern city of Matola. The Congress spokesperson, Dionisio Nhangumbe, told reporters that the pace of redundancies had increased at the end of the decade. As far as the unions were concerned, the worst period so far had been 1999-2001, when some 20,000 jobs were lost. The OTM has watched as, contrary to the promises of the new owners, many privatised factories did not acquire new equipment, but simply collapsed. Nhangumbe said that a third of the 1,470 privatised are now paralysed or semi-paralysed, and owe back wages to their workers.

The worst single debacle was the cashew processing industry. Here it was the World Bank that was largely to blame, with its demand that the industry be stripped of protection. The Bank's policy seemed dictated by Indian cashew processing interests: for the end result was that Mozambican cashews were exported raw to India, while one by one the local processing plants, starved of raw material, closed down. 90 per cent of the more than 10,000 people who used to work in cashew processing have lost their jobs. The OTM is demanding the "re-industrialisation" of the cashew sector - but there is no sign that the government is listening.

Nhangumbe pledged that the OTM would continue the struggle for a decent minimum wage. Currently the statutory minimum industrial wage is 812,163 meticais (about 34 US dollars) a month - and no family can possibly survive on such a lowly amount. The OTM spokesman stressed that, in the tripartite negotiating sessions with the government and the employers, the OTM would continue to fight for the minimum wage to be fixed in accordance with the prices of a basket of basic goods, a demand which the employers have so far categorically rejected. (AIM)

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