Striking seamen strike wage agreement

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Walvis Bay

The Metal, Mining, Maritime and Construction Union (MMMC) yesterday reached an important milestone following the illegal strike for better wages by at least 1 200 seamen at Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.

Although the strike has not yet ended, MMMC successfully negotiated an agreement with Gendev that will see the company’s 27 seamen returning to work over the weekend with better working conditions and benefits.

The agreement, according to the regional organiser of MMMC, Immanuel Petrus, is a straightforward document in line with the Labour Act, unlike the memorandum of agreement (MoA) that was signed last year between the recognised trade unions and the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA).

“The agreement with Gendev stipulates that a continuous shift will now be 12 hours which means eight normal hours and four hours of overtime.

“Due to the nature of fishing operations at sea and the fact that actual fishing happens at different intervals depending on the availability of fish, the parties accept and recognise that the long line fishing operation is continuous,” Petrus said.

They also agreed that any hours worked in excess of eight ordinary hours will be paid as overtime as provided for by the Labour Act, while night hours shall also be paid as stipulated by the Labour Act – at six percent of the employee’s hourly basic rate for each hour worked overtime

Work performed on Sundays and public holiday will be remunerated in terms of the Labour Act as well. After each trip at sea the employees will be granted a 48-hour rest period before going on the next fishing trip. The two-day rest period may be shortened to not less than 36 hours.

Workers will also receive a basic salary – the highest being N$3 600 and not less than N$N$1 110 while a fish commission of N$78 per metric ton will be payable to each seaman.

In addition the company will contribute N$100 to a pension fund, N$15 to funeral cover, N$100 for medical aid and a housing allowance of N$950. According to Petrus it was not easy to finally sign the agreement.

“I am a very happy man. These past months have not been easy. We anticipate a chain reaction, judging by the agreement we signed. It is a huge achievement from the previous conditions of employment. It’s a dramatic agreement,” a very pleased Petrus said yesterday.

He said the union was yielding the results it wanted although the process is slow.
“We don’t want to change the atmosphere only the employment conditions of our members so that they in turn can improve their living conditions.”

Giving an update on the illegal strike Petrus said that apart from the 27 seamen, 260 have also returned to their jobs already, however their employment conditions would be renegotiated after their return.

At least six vessels are said to have left for the designated fishing grounds. Also speaking at the signing of the agreement, the chief executive officer of the Gendeve Group, Volker Paulsmeier, said that they were happy that they could resume operations at sea. The company employs 27 seamen, 125 factory workers (hake) and 750 horse mackerel employees who were all affected by the 27 seamen that began a strike last year.

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