Mozambican companies may have up to 12 pct foreign workers

2 May 2006

Maputo, Mozambique, 02 May – Mozambican companies may contract foreigners to make up as much as 12 percent of their total workforce without requesting aurthorization from the government, according to a new labor legislation proposal.

The document, to which Macauhub had access, was finished in April and is currently being discussed with unions and employer associations as part of the process of reforming labor law in Mozambique, which has been ongoing since 1998.

At these meetings some changes to the original proposal have already been made, such as changes to authorizations for foreigners, which will be discussed and approved by the country’s parliament this year.

“We are working for the document to go to a Cabinet Meeting by the first week of June, at the latest, so that it can be discussed by Parliament in the second session of 2006,” which begins in September, the coordinator of the labor law revision process, Afonso Zitha told Macauhub.

The ongoing reform aims to make labor relations more flexible and, according to the government, attract more foreign investment to a country whose main challenge is to fight absolute poverty, which affects 54 percent of its population.

The changes include the possibility of companies being able to hire up to 12 percent foreigner for their workforce without having to request authorization from Mozambique’s Labor Ministry.

The proposal also puts forward the possibility of not needing a work permit for investment projects approved by the government and which plan to contract a certain number of foreign workers.

Mozambican companies will be newly classified as small (up to 10 workers), medium (fewer than 100 workers) and large (over 100 workers) and the new legislation will allow them to swap workers between them.

This move means that workers who sign a contract with a single employer may be forced to work for several employers, if these employers are related or have common organizational structures.

The types of contracts available to employers for hiring their workers will also change as temporary contracts will now be permitted, with lengths of no more than two years, and renewable for up to six years, – currently only one two-year renewal is permitted – alongside permanent contracts.

A company’s business situation will now be considered to be a justification for laying off workers, including “technological, structural or market reasons,” while the new law will no longer include the possibility of laying off workers due to “delays and difficulties on the part of the employer in paying salaries,” as the current law states.

The idea of “making labor relations more flexible,” has been widened to working hours, which the legislation proposals maintains at 48 hours per week, although it makes provision for up to a 56 hour week, provided that over a six month period the average worked does not exceed 48 hours per week..

Another proposed innovation is related to deadlines for notification of a strike, which the government document sets at a minimum of five days – it currently stands at 72 hours.

The proposal also includes private security in the list of services and activities for which striking workers must provide minimum services and considers that, during a strike, the rights, duties and guarantees not directly related to carrying out the work are not suspended, such as those related to social security, subsidies for professional accidents or illness as well as the duty of loyalty.

“We started form the basis that everyone, the government, unions and employers were unanimous about the need to change the law. This process shows the wish of everyone involved to defend national interests at a time of globalization,” Zitha told Macauhub.

This position ahs been followed by many employers who consider that improvement of the business climate in Mozambique requires a revision of its labor law.

However, this vision is not shared by union organization Organização dos Trabalhadores de Moçambique which ahs argued that reducing working rights would not “encourage foreign investment or increase the weak competitiveness of Mozambican businesses.” (macauhub)