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FILE: Ematum boats docked in Maputo on November 2018. [File photos:Twitter / @AllexandreMZ]
Workers at the company Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) have not been paid for the past ten months, and are now threatening to remove the anchors from the Ematum fishing boats, thus allowing them to drift into the Bay of Maputo, according to a report in Thursday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
The 100 workers involved say the last time they were paid was in December 2018, and the company refuses to say anything about their plight.
Ematum used to have over 200 workers, but 50 have been hired out to a second fishing company, Tunamar, and about 75 were made redundant and received redundancy pay. The remaining 100, at the start of this week, gave the company notice that they intended to take strike action. They are demanding payment of the ten months wages in arrears, and also the 2018 New Year bonus (known as the “thirteenth month”, such it is equivalent to an extra month’s wages).
The workers also want to be reallocated to Tunamar. This company was set up from within Ematum, in a partnership with the United States company, the Frontier Services Group (FSG).
The FSG is headed by Eric Prince, founder of the private security company Blackwater, notorious for the massacre at Nisour Square in Baghdad in September 2007, when Blackwater guards shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians.
In December 2017, Prince signed an agreement with the Mozambican government to establish a partnership to make Ematum viable.
Thus Tunamar came into being, but it did not acquire most of the Ematum assets. It hired 50 Ematum workers, and took over only two of the 24 Ematum fishing vessels, although, according to the remaining Ematum workers, there was an agreement to hire five of the boats.
In January, the Ematum chairperson, Antonio do Rosario, was arrested for his role in the scandal of Mozambique’s “hidden debts” – this term refers to the illicit loans of over two billion dollars which Ematum and two other companies, Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) obtained from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia in 2013 and 2014, on the basis of loan guarantees issued by the government of the day, headed by President Armando Guebuza, in violation of the Mozambican constitution and of the budget law.
A new director, Felisberto Tembe, was appointed to run Ematum and “he told us that all concerns should be addressed to him”, according to one worker interviewed by “Mediafax”, and who acted as spokesperson for the group.
But Tembe has given no reply to the matter of the wage arrears. “The only information is that we should wait”, said the spokesperson. “They say they are waiting for payment from Tunamar. That is, they say that Tunmar must pay for the hire of the five boats, so that they can have the money to pay our wages”.
As for transferring the workers to Tunamar, the Ematum management has said nothing at all “and we are tired of this, since we have families”, he added.
Although many of the Ematum workers were hired as sailors, all they have been able to do is work as security guards, since it is years since the Ematum fleet put to sea. Apart from the two boats hired by Tunamar, the Ematum fleet is at anchor in the Maputo fishing port.
The workers warn that, if there is no solution to their demands, then on 8 October they will release the boats from their anchors, allowing them to drift out into Maputo Bay. Unmanned boats drifting into the shipping lanes leading to and from the Maputo commercial port could cause havoc.
When “Mediafax” sought a reaction from the Ematum management, it was told no senior official was available to speak to the press, and the paper should ask for an interview next week.Source: AIM
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