Workers of the Mozambique Tuna Company (EMATUM) protested outside the company’s head office on Wednesday, because they have not been paid for the past three months, reports Thursday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, workers told the paper that since November 2015 their wages have been paid irregularly. There have been constant delays, with wage arrears accumulating for two or three months, and certain privileges guaranteed in their work contracts (such as food and transport) are no longer being provided.
The protesters said that, although they have stopped some activities, they are not actually on strike, but are merely putting pressure on the company to pay their wages.
They said that EMATUM’s 24 fishing boats are not operating regularly because of lack of maintenance. “While we’re here talking, the boats are stopped, and some of them don’t even have bait”, they add. (21 of the EMATUM boats are longliners, which trail lines of hooks behind them to catch the tuna – which can only work if the hooks are baited).
The protesters were particularly angered that the EMATUM management had at no time seen fit to speak to them about the company’s difficulties.
“Mediafax” attempted to speak to the company management, but was told that the director of human resources, Flavio Quibe, was the only person authorized to make any statement, and he was not on the premises. The workers, however, insisted that he was in the building.
The paper found that later on Wednesday the company management did meet with the workers, and urged them to wait until next week when their situation would be regularized.
“That’s not the first time they’ve said this”, the protesters said, threatening that they would not leave the premises “until they give us our money”.
On Wednesday afternoon, “Mediafax” managed to speak to Quibe on the phone, but he refused to give the paper any information.
“I’m not telling you anything”, he said. “Speak with the person who gave you this phone number to obtain the information you want. I’m not giving you any information”.
EMATUM’s fishing boats were acquired in 2013 through the issuing of bonds on the European bond market to the value of 850 million US dollars. The bond issue was arranged by European banks, notably Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, and these loans were guaranteed by the Mozambican government of the time, headed by President Armando Guebuza. The government guarantees were in flagrant violation of the 2013 budget law which set a limit on government guarantees equivalent to 6.5 million dollars.
The EMATUM accounts for 2013 and 2014 showed that the company was in serious financial difficulties and the accounts for 2015 have not yet been published. From figures published by the government, however, it is known that in 2015 EMATUM caught less than 300 tonnes of tuna.
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