About 250 miners and other workers at the Chirodzi coal mine, in the western Mozambican province of Tete, run by the Indian company Jindal Mozambique Minerals, have been on strike since 9 January, reports the latest issue of the independent weekly "Savana".
This is the third strike at the Chirodzi mine since it was inaugurated by President Armando Guebuza in August 2013.
The workers accuse the mine management of discriminating against Mozambican workers in favour of foreigners, particularly Indians.
In a letter sent to the Tete Provincial Labour Directorate, the workers say that Jindal pays a Mozambican operator of a dumper truck a net monthly wage of 7,500 meticais (about 237 US dollars), but an Indian worker doing the same job receives more than 35,000 meticais a month.
The strikers complain that when they attempt to negotiate wage grievances with the management, they are told that they should be thankful with what they are offered. "They say that if we are not satisfied with what we earn, we can leave, since there is no shortage of labour in Mozambique", one of the strikers told "Savana".
Mozambican labour legislation states that foreigners should only be hired when there are not enough qualified Mozambicans to fill the posts. But the workers claim that Jindal is employing Zimbabweans, Malawians and Tanzanians who are in the country illegally. The strikers accuse Jindal of exploiting the foreign workers in exchange for protecting them against repatriation.
The workers also say that Jindal does not provide them with face masks, and they are thus exposed to coal dust, with all the health risks this entails.
They add that they are accommodated in camps without basic safety and hygiene conditions. Their living quarters have no drinking water, no electricity and no toilet facilities. They are this obliged to relieve themselves in the bush surrounding the mine.
The strikers say they are given a poor diet and forced to drink untreated water. As a result, diarrhoeal diseases are rampant among the workforce.
"Savana" attempted to contact the Jindal management at the company office in Maputo, and was referred to the Jindal delegation in Tete, where nobody was answering the phones.
The Tete Provincial Labour Director, Olga Nassone, said her office has set up a team to investigate the workers' complaints. The team has talked with both the workers and the employer, and is producing a report which will determine what measures should be taken if the workers' complaints are found to be true.
Copyright Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).