Lack of trust in fishing
“The main issue is the mistrust between the workers and the employers, in other words the employers don’t control the product. “Fishing companies catch up all the product, then they approach the government for another quota or else they threaten with retrenchments.”
“The general issues that we as unions are experiencing is the lack of trust. If a company knows that they have X amount of quota, they have to share this information with the workers. The workers should understand how the quotas work,” he said.
“Now you find this one company saying that the quota is finished and that the vessel should go out and catch somewhere else, unprepared, and now the union has to come out again and solve problems. Tell them we negotiate what is going to happen if someone is going to fish outside the given waters,” he said. “Some companies have more than three fishing vessels, there is no doubt that they will catch up their quota within a short period of time and expect the government to give them more fishing quotas.”
Imbili said the solution rests with the controlling company. “When a vessel goes to the fishing ground, it will remain there for approximately two days. Once it becomes full it goes back and returns out to sea again. How on earth would one say that the fish resource will not become exhausted and dry up? There is no time for the fishermen to rest; it’s usually just two to three days, and then they are out to sea again.”
“It looks as if these companies are interested in making money and not interested in controlling the catch of their quota within the time frame. Before the renewal of a quota, they will catch [it] within six months and then come and ask for another quota while the ones suffering from all this are the workers. We as unions, we try our level best to have negotiations with the companies but they keep referring us to the government,” he said.
He said the situation has worsed with the introduction of new fishing equipment to catch horse mackerel. “It is not the old system where they would throw in and automatically they bring it back in,” he said adding that his office has received an invitation from the Labour Commissioner whose main concern is the closing of companies in October.
“In the case of horse-mackerel, management usually close during October to give the fish enough time to recover, and during this time, workers are not given what is due to them in terms of lease or their full salaries which are due to them. Again, it is thrown into the hands of the government. When we as the union come to them in terms of the Labour Act, there is no provision made. The Labour Commissioner is coming in so that we can find a solution and ensure that no party is affected,” said Imbili.
He said, if it is a government issue, the government should implement it as a gazetted law, so that both the union and the workers do not talk to the employers, and that it becomes something national.”
“The employer is just there. You work, you come in, you don’t work and that’s it. Otherwise the government and the employer must come together and see if the employer can accommodate these workers in terms of payments,” he said.
The Fishermen Workers Union represents approximately 3000 workers in the fishing industry, some in the factories or on the sea and some in the offices as clerks or cleaners.