Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The constitution and law provide that workers, with limited exceptions, may form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law requires government approval to establish a union. The government has 45 days to register employers’ and workers’ organizations, a delay the International Labor Organization (ILO) deemed excessive. Although the law provides for the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining, such collective bargaining contracts covered less than 5 percent of the workforce. Workers in defense and security services, tax administration, prison workers, the fire brigade, judges and prosecutors, and the President’s Office staff members are prohibited from unionizing. Other public-sector workers may form and join unions, but they are prohibited from striking.
The law does not allow strike action until complex conciliation, mediation, and arbitration procedures are exhausted, which typically takes two to three weeks. Sectors deemed essential must provide a “minimum level” of service during a strike. Workers’ ability to conduct union activities in workplaces was strictly limited. The law provides for voluntary arbitration for “essential services” personnel monitoring the weather and fuel supply, postal service workers, export processing zone (EPZ) workers, and those loading and unloading animals and perishable foodstuffs. The law requires that strikes be announced at least five days in advance, and the announcement must include the expected duration of the strike, although the government interprets this to allow indefinite strikes. Mediation and arbitration bodies may end strikes in addition to the unions and workers themselves. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination; however, it does not explicitly provide for reinstatement of workers terminated for union activities. The government respected the legal prohibition of antiunion discrimination.
Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers were only able to exercise a few of these rights. There are strict legal constraints on workers’ meetings in the workplace. Unions regularly negotiated wage increases and organized strikes.
Lack of resources hampered the government’s efforts to enforce many of its labor laws. Government efforts included fining companies that violated labor laws and the expulsion of foreign supervisors who allegedly did not follow the law. Fines were not sufficient to deter violators.
The International Trade Union Confederation criticized the government’s prohibition of strikes by EPZ workers and the government’s designation of EPZ workers as “essential.” The ILO had previously criticized the government’s definition of “essential services” workers as being too broad.
The largest trade union organization, the Organization of Mozambican Workers (OTM), was perceived as biased in favor of the government and ruling party Frelimo.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. If convicted of trafficking in persons, which includes forced labor, the penalty is 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The government did not enforce these laws effectively. There was limited evidence of forced labor and forced child labor in the domestic and agricultural sectors. Girls and women from rural areas, as well as migrant workers from bordering countries, were lured to cities with false promises of employment or education and then exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking. In addition, there was a significant rise in Ethiopians trafficked through Mozambique for the purpose of labor exploitation in South Africa. In December 2017 alone, security forces apprehended 41 Ethiopian citizens in Tete Province being smuggled into South Africa for labor exploitation and discovered the bodies of 19 other Ethiopians in Sofala Province who were believed to be victims of trafficking.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor; however, gaps exist in the legal framework to protect adequately children from the worst forms of child labor. Children are not permitted to work in occupations that are unhealthy, dangerous, or require significant physical effort; however, the government has no official list of prohibited job activities or occupations. The minimum working age without restrictions is 18. The law permits children between ages 15 and 17 to work with a Ministry of Labor permit. The employer is required to provide for their education and training and provide conditions of work that are not damaging to their physical and moral development. Children between ages 12 and 14 may work under special conditions authorized by the Ministries of Labor, Health, and Education. Children under age 18 may work up to seven hours a day for a total of 38 hours a week. By law children must be paid at least the minimum wage or a minimum of two-thirds of the adult salary, whichever is higher.
The Ministry of Labor regulates child labor in the formal sector, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Labor inspectors may obtain court orders and have police enforce compliance with child labor provisions. There were no mechanisms in place for submitting complaints regarding hazardous and forced child labor. Violations of child labor provisions are punishable by fines ranging from one to 40 months of the minimum wage. Such penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Enforcement mechanisms generally were inadequate in the formal sector due to resource constraints and nonexistent in the informal sector. In August 2017 the Ministry of Labor conducted a seminar with civil society and private-sector participants in which a list of hazardous activities and a national plan to fight the worst forms of child labor were completed. In October 2017 parliament approved the plan.
The labor inspectorate and police lacked adequate staff, funds, and training to investigate child labor cases, especially in areas outside the capital, where a majority of the abuses occurred. No labor inspectors specialized in child labor issues; however, they all received child labor training. Inspectors earned low wages (like many government employees) making them vulnerable to, and often inclined to seek, bribes. Inspectors often did not have the means to travel to sites and therefore relied on the company they were investigating to provide transportation to the site of an alleged violation. The government provided training on child prostitution and abuse prevention to police officers and additional training to labor inspectors on trafficking identification and prevention.
Child labor remained a problem. NGOs reported some girls who migrated from rural areas to urban centers to work as domestic help for extended family or acquaintances to settle debts were vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Mothers who did not complete secondary school were more likely to have children involved in child labor. Due to economic necessity, especially in rural areas, children worked in agriculture, as domestic employees, or in prostitution.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced applicable law. Penalties (such as fines) were sufficient to deter violations.
Discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities was common, and access to employment was one of the biggest problems facing persons with disabilities.
The law explicitly prohibits discrimination against workers because of HIV/AIDS status, and the Ministry of Labor generally intervened in cases of perceived discrimination by employers. With an increased public awareness of this law, there were no public reports of individuals dismissed because of their HIV status.
There were multiple reports in local media of the Labor Ministry suspending the contracts of irregular foreign workers. Some foreign workers reported harassment by Labor Ministry inspectors after disputes with Mozambican coworkers and being forced to pay bribes for work permits or leave the country. In May 2017, however, the Constitutional Council ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to expel foreign workers without judicial approval.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The lowest government-mandated industry-based minimum wage was 3,183 meticais ($53) a month and may be adjusted as needed. The poverty line was 540 meticais (nine dollars) a month per household member. Workers generally received benefits, such as transportation and food, in addition to wages. The OTM estimated that a minimum livable monthly wage to provide for a family of five was 8,000 meticais ($133). The standard legal workweek is 40 hours but may be extended to 48 hours. Overtime must be paid for hours worked in excess of 48 hours at 50 percent above the base hourly salary. These legal protections apply to foreign workers holding work permits.
The government sets occupational health and safety (OSH) standards that were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Health and environmental laws protect workers in the formal sector; however, they do not apply to the informal economy, which comprised an estimated 95 percent of the workforce. Workers have the right to clean and safe workplaces including good physical, environmental, and moral conditions. Workers have the right to be informed of safety risks and instruction on how to follow the regulations and improve safety, including the right to protective clothing and equipment, first aid, health exams, and compensation for workplace injuries or sickness.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage rates in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. The ministries usually investigated violations of minimum wage rates only after workers submitted a complaint.
The Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and OSH standards in the informal economy, since the Ministry of Labor only regulates the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Agricultural workers were among the most vulnerable to poor work conditions and wage theft. The lack of frequent and enforced sanctions for violations created little deterrence for violations. Despite the relatively low number of inspectors, some businesses reported frequent visits by labor inspectors citing capricious violations and threats of fines in order to receive bribes.
During the year there was a significant increase in the number of work accidents in the areas of construction, public works, and manufacturing, some of which resulted in the death or permanent disability of workers. According to the General Labor Inspectorate, in the fourth quarter of 2017 there was a 1.4 percent increase in accidents. Out-of-court settlements of disputes between workers and employers included 1,656 mediated conflicts, of which 1,385 ended in agreement and 271 in deadlock. The reduction in the number of cases was a direct consequence of the intensification of prevention actions, through lectures and advisory services to workers and employers on labor legislation.