Namibian National Labour Organisation (Nanlo) president Evilastus Kaaronda says fishing companies must swallow their pride, cut their losses and embrace the workers in order to find a lasting solution to the industry’s problems.
Kaaronda said that in effect the government through the labour ministry, after establishing and confirming the existence of the violation of the labour law, made no effort to press for compliance. It instead bent over backwards to accommodate the continued violation of the Labour Act, he added.
As a result the fishing industry and those who have fishing quotas are benefiting financially at the expense of the poorly paid workers, he said.
“To this end, we remind the government that if it had acted in a manner consistent with the law, none of these issues would have brought us to any work stoppage – legally procedural or not,” Kaaronda said at a press briefing yesterday on the ongoing fishermen’s strike in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.
“If the fishing industry had chosen like all employers to comply with the provisions of the law and paid its employees as required by law, none of these issues would have been raised. In effect, workers would have been at work this very moment,” said Kaaronda.
Meanwhile the fishermen continue with their strike. Kaaronda also said that he failed to understand those calling on the striking fishermen to return to work, in effect to go back to unlawful working conditions. He said fishermen can’t end the strike just to return to the same unfavourable working conditions.
“What I don’t understand is people calling on fishermen to go to work as if the working conditions are normal. Employees are risking their lives when they go to work, working more than 15-hour shifts with no proper meal,” he stressed.
The striking fishermen are members of the Metal, Mining, Maritime and Construction Union (MMMC), which is an affiliate of Nanlo. Kaaronda accompanied the fishermen’s union to State House last week when they travelled from Walvis Bay seeking an audience with President Geingob.
A meeting took place yesterday between the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation and the Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu), Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union, Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) and the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA).
However, Kaaronda said the MMMC would not take part in the meeting and not accept the outcome.
Kaaronda said it must be understood and accepted that the workers have tried on numerous occasions to raise, discuss and resolve their problems with the industry and government for the past four if not more years. “It is only unfortunate that despite having found that the industry employs and permits its employees to work under conditions which are in violation of the Labour Act, the government through the labour ministry took a wrong decision when it opted not to compel the industry to comply with the law as it stands,” Kaaronda stated.