Seamen protest over wages, foreign staff

At least 55 seamen of Namsov demonstrated yesterday morning against foreign nationals employed in the fishing industry, as well as other grievances.

WALVIS BAY –   Accusations of foreign workers occupying ordinary jobs such as positions for deckmates and cooks, and earning more than locals, have resurfaced.

At least fifty-five seamen employed by Namsov Fishing at Walvis Bay yesterday morning downed tools in discontent over disparities in the pay of  seagoing personnel, among other grievances.

Allegations are that some fishing companies pay  foreign workers huge salaries with another bone of contention being that their pay is not in Namibian dollars. Other allegations concern alleged unfair dismissals, exploitation of Namibian seamen by Namsov and benefits that are not forthcoming.

The workers who are employed on five horse-mackerel fishing vessels complained strongly about the company allegedly employing Russians in ordinary jobs  that Namibians could do and paying them exorbitant salaries and wages.

The  seamen said Namibia has been “crying about unemployment” yet again foreigners are shipped in to occupy jobs for deckmates and cooks, positions that Namibians are equally qualified to fill.

The workers  who marched under the banner of the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fisherman’s Workers Union (NFI & FWU)  also accused the company of  “slowing the implementation of overtime and night allowance”. 

Speaking on behalf of the employees, Immanuel Petrus said they were tired of low salaries with flimsy benefits, adding that the company’s land-based employees have more benefits than its sea-going personnel.  

He claimed they are receiving a mere N$350  for housing while office staff receive much more for the same.

 “Our social wellbeing is not being taken care of by decisions taken in the boardroom and without our being considered,” Petrus said.

He added that some seamen who were dismissed were still waiting to  be reinstated as recommended three years ago. 

“Up to now we are still waiting for the reinstatement of the workers.  We want the company to explain why the process has been dragging on,” he said

Petrus said none of the seamen are paid overtime. “The Namibian Labour Act makes provision for overtime but payment for overtime is not forthcoming,” he said. 

Petrus said the seamen were demanding their long “overdue payment of overtime and night allowances with immediate effect”. 

They are also demanding the company stop “disrespecting and undermining Namibian seamen” and that incentive bonuses be paid to all employees.

The protestors gave the company 24 hours to respond to their petition that was received by  the chief executive officer of Namsov, Jerome Mouton.  

Mouton said he acknowledged the concerns that were raised by the employees and would definitely investigate their grievances before responding.

No operations of the vessels were disrupted by the demonstration and the seamen indicated that they would not engage in any illegal act as they had the “company’s wellbeing at heart”.

By Eveline de Klerk


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