Fisheries observers march again

31 Oct 2013 22:29pm
WALVIS BAY, 31 OCT (NAMPA) - A group of 60 disgruntled Fisheries Observer Agency (FOA) employees held a peaceful demonstration here on Wednesday in an effort to make their grievances known to Fisheries and Marine Resources’ Minister Bernhard Esau.
The chairperson of the shop-stewards’ committee at the Namibia Public Worker's Union (Napwu), Vapopya Mutumbulwa indicated in a petition addressed to Esau that the FOA employees have not received their salary increments for the 2013/2014 financial year yet.
Previous efforts by the employees to bring their problems to the attention of the minister proved futile as no acknowledgment of letters sent to his office was received, he added.
Mutumbulwa stated that Napwu took it a step further to engage with the FOA management on the issue of the salary increments in the first quarter of 2013, but were told that management did not receive a mandate from the FOA Board regarding this issue.
“This reaction has become common over the years, and we as FOA staff always lose out on our pension benefits because the salary increments are usually only concluded in the last quarter of the year.
This situation cannot be allowed to persist unabated, considering that the FOA budget for the following year is normally submitted to the minister in September of the preceding year, meaning the 2014 budget has already been despatched to the minister last September.
Despite all this, when we start asking for salary increases next April, we will still be told that there is no budget yet,” he charged.
The FOA is governed by a Management Board, but at the moment, the agency in effect does not have a Management Board due to the previous members’ term having ended.
This state of affairs has a negative impact on FOA staff, as they cannot engage management on issues like salary negotiations.
“We feel aggrieved by the minister’s continued silence on the appointment of the Board members,” Mutumbulwa stressed.
Following previous industrial action in November last year, both parties reached consensus on providing a housing subsidy and discomfort allowance to staff members, which were to be implemented in April this year.
He, however, indicated that April ‘has come and gone’, and these two benefits have still not been implemented as the FOA Board members who were dealing with the matter are not in a position to act as their term of office ended in September this year.
“Housing is a basic need, and we as employees cannot continue to be condemned to backyard squatting for the rest of our working lives.
The employer has a moral duty to provide or subsidise decent housing for the employees, and we are thus calling for unconditional implementation as agreed by both parties in November 2012,” Mutumbulwa added.
He said sea-going employees are also discriminated against when it comes to the payment of overtime for work done on Sundays and public holidays, adding that the workers wants this ‘exploitative’ practice to be stopped forthwith.
The disgruntled group indicated that they want a response from Esau before 08 November 2013 to avoid further strife in the agency.
Upon receiving the petition, the Head of Human Resources at FOA, Willie Evenson confirmed that the term of office of the Board members has come to an end, but stated that the ministry is working on matter.
He said it is sad and disheartening for management to see year in and year out that the employees are on the streets, requesting and demanding what is rightfully theirs.
“This issue must come to an end, as the FOA is in the media for all the wrong reasons. As a child of the Ministry of Fisheries, we are tasked with complementing the Monitoring and Surveillance programme, but if the task afforded to us is not giving us the desired results, we can only blame the ministry,” he said.
Evenson then assured the employees that as part of management, he will forward their grievances to the relevant authorities for their attention.