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Workers in the largest bakery in Mozambique, “Espiga d’Ouro” in the southern city of Matola, went back to work on Tuesday, after a strike that had lasted about 24 hours.
A consultant to the company management, Zainadine Dalsuco, told Radio Mozambique that the strike only involved a group of about 20 drivers. (Their work, however, is critical, since Espiga d’Ouro cannot sell its bread if the distribution is not working properly).
Dalsuco accused the drivers of not knowing the country’s Labour Law, and denied their claim that the company has not provided them with written contracts. He said the contracts are available and can be picked up by the workers any time they like. He added that it would make no sense for a large company such as Espiga d’Ouro to operate without contracts.
But Dalsuco admitted there are some workers recruited recently who have not yet submitted all the necessary documentation, and so they have not had an opportunity to sign their contracts.
As for the workers’ wage complaints, Dalsuco recognised that their wages had been irregularly docked, but said the problem had been solved. (The workers had claimed that, when they returned with unsold bread, the value of the bread was deducted from their wages, as though they could control how much bread the clients purchased).
The strike led a team from the Labour Inspectorate to visit the bakery. Arlindo Manjate, director of the Labour Mediation and Arbitration Centre (CEMAL) in Maputo province, told reporters that what the team had found “was not really a strike, but a small misunderstanding between a group of drivers and the company management”.
Espiga d’Ouro had resumed its operations, and CEMAL was following the situation. “They will negotiate, and if they have any difficulty, we shall return to give whatever support may be necessary”, Manjate said.
Meanwhile other bakers in Maputo city and province have complained at what they describe as “unfair competition” from Espiga d’Ouro.
The bakers, who do not seem to understand the concept of competition, complain that Espiga d’Ouro puts sales points for its bread near their bakeries, thus depriving them of clients.
The complaint was raised at a Maputo meeting of the Association of Bakers (AMOPAO) on Tuesday. They claimed that Espiga d’Ouro could lead to the sacking of 35,000 bakers, and called on the authorities to take action.
The real problem, however, is not where the sales points are located, but the simple fact that Espiga d’Ouro has modern machinery, and can produce 1.8 million loaves and rolls a day. Unless other Matola bakeries can produce better bread, and at a cheap price, they stand little change of competing.