Namibia: Tunacor Workers Strike

Walvis Bay — The Namibian Seaman and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu) is considering approaching the courts to compel Tunacor Fishing Company to heed to their salary and employment benefit demands following a botched strike on Friday. A strike by employees of the fishing company, mostly members of Nasawu, weakened after the union could not convince all the 1000 employees at the company to down tools.

Amid heavy police presence at the company premises, only 300 workers continued with the work stoppage on Friday afternoon.

While Nasawu president, Paulus Hango, was trying to negotiate with the company, an equal number of workers voluntarily returned to work after the company enticed them with a counter-offer.

Tunacor said it would not stand in the way of workers who are returning to the premises for work. The striking employees have been locked out of the company premises.

Those who accepted the counter-offer are said to be union members of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) – Nasawu’s rival.

Although Nasawu has the bargaining power at the hake-exporting company, it has been unable to coerce the company to meet its demands – among them a N$200 increase for every temporary worker at the company.

During the hake season closure, Nasawu wants the company to pay workers five days’ salary for land-based crew and seven days’ salary for seagoing personnel.

Nasawu is also demanding that permanent employees be paid an hourly rate of N$14.55 per hour while temporary workers be paid N$11.80 as well as an additional bonus of N$1500 during the October season closure.

Furthermore, Nasawu says the company should effect a backdated increment of N$1000 for 2010.

Tunacor and Nasawu have been locked in wage negotiations since June 2010.

The majority of the employees did not want to go on strike, according to Tunacor’s general manager, Peya Hitula.

Hitula told New Era the fishing company will only effect a 7.5 percent wage increase across the board.

“Any further increments will put the company in financial jeopardy,” said Hitula.

Meanwhile, it has come to the fore that workers at the fishing company are not merely striking over wages. They also have other grievances. Hango claimed that workers were being exploited and also made allegations of nepotism, adding that the company’s code of conduct needed to be reviewed because of a spate of unfair dismissals.

“Three to four cases of unfair dismissal have been reported at the company,” said Hango.

Tunacor has challenged Nasawu to come forth with the evidence related to the alleged dismissals.

The company employs 1170 workers.

“Several workers are working out at sea willingly as we speak. It is the company’s mission to maintain and respect the rights of those employees who wish to work for Tunacor,” said Hitula on Friday.

“The union’s leadership deserted the company and its employees when we had to close in April, but now they are ready to damage the future of Tunacor and its employees,” Tunacor claimed, arguing that the company looked after the employees during the Arpil closure at a very high cost.
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