Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

14 December 2012

Namibia: Pacific Denies Workers Allegations

Pacific Andes Group, the holding company of China Fishery Group denied the allegations of poor working conditions on its trawler. The allegations came after the company was accused by Namibian Fishermen of subjecting them to poor working conditions.

The workers claim that they were only fed two meals a day and had to be content with porridge, chicken and pork knuckles. They also claim that there were no proper washing facilities, forcing them to bath in small basins.

There are a total of 56 Namibians on the Pacific Leader vessel, other crew members are from Indonesia and China.

"These allegations as far as China Fishery Group is concerned, are not correct and I can unfortunately not speak on behalf of other fishing companies. What I can say for my own company, however is that we strive to make our employees happy by paying them industry rates," Kent Yeh, director of corporate development and planning at Pacific Andes said.

He said fishing vessels such as the Pacific Leader vessel have tight quarters. They are not made of brick and mortar on to which you can add extra rooms, the vessel has 8 showers and 7 toilets for on-board crew.

"The infrastructure is the same as in any vessel of its shape and size. Notwithstanding, we are surprised that the complaints are made three months after we stopped our operations in terms of the previous agreement with a rights holder," said Yeh.

He further said that there are two local cooks on the vessel to cook especially for the Namibian crew and that those two cooks and the supervisor are in charge of the food budget as well as the menu. Whatever is served to the Namibian crew is based on an understanding between them,the cooks and supervisors.

"There are no restrictions on which food should be bought for the Namibian crew. Pacific Leader operates a 24 hour factory which runs two shifts. We offer four meals every six hours, two meals per shift," he added.

According to Yeh, when the company started in February this year, they needed to recruit at least 54 Namibians. As is the practice in other jurisdictions, they sought to engage the services of an employment agency which could give them the right amount of workers speedily to enable them to start without delay. They were put in contact with a company that provided the sufficient human capacity for their vessel.

"However, we were alerted to the fact that we were dealing with a labour hire company. With that knowledge, we engaged the labour hire company and an understanding was reached that for the duration of the agreement, the workers of Pacific Leader will be paid as per industry terms. In addition, we paid agency fees to the labour hire company as we could have paid to a recruiting agency," he said.

The company also announced that it has signed a joint long term agreement with Joka Two to establish a Namibian company with a HR department that will craft recruitment policies and hire full time staff for its vessels. The new company will have quota holders as shareholders

Joka Two Fishing is one of the newcomers in the fishing industry, and has been granted horse mackerel fishing rights for the next seven years.

"We do not wish to keep changing our workforce every season. I reiterate our respect for local labour laws and we will uphold them to the letter. In addition, we will continue to treat our workers as they are the most important asset that they deserve to be. We have done it in the past and we will continue to do that," he added.

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