South African pelagic fish workers' strike 'unlawful' –

South African pelagic fish workers’ strike ‘unlawful’ Published:  07 June, 2011

The South African Pelagic Fish Processors’ Association is calling the strike by more than 3,000 members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) that has been taking place since Friday unlawful.

The pelagic fishing sector workers have been striking over wage issues and are demanding 40 per cent of their weekly income when there is no work during a particular week.

“This is despite both parties having an existing agreement about an off-season subsistence allowance when there is no work available. The collective bargaining agreement was concluded and applies for the period from 1 August 2010 to 31 July 2011, and is currently binding on the union and its members,” said Stuart Harrison, a representative of the legal team hired by the relevant employers, which include Oceana Brands, Oceana Lobster, West Point Processors, Foodcorp Consumer Brands, Oranjevis Joint Venture, Gansbaai Marine and Premier Fishing.

Because the issue was already regulated by the collective agreement in place with FAWU, the strike is unlawful and unprotected, he said, and the companies would now take “the necessary legal and other steps” to protect themselves.

FAWU responded by issuing a statement asserting that its members “are in fact on a legal and protected strike..…the strike is based on a matter of mutual interest and CCMA has issued a certificate to this effect”.

“This is an outright, but failed attempt to confuse workers and the general public,” the union accused.

FAWU claims that the strike is their response to the failure of negotiations by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) last week to gain a deal between FAWU and the pelagic fishing sector over the union’s demand for a relief fund for seasonal workers.

Mthunzi Mhlakane, fishing sector organiser of FAWU said the companies worked to ensure they caught all quotas as quickly as possible to minimise the amount they pay on wages.

“Although these workers are employed on a contract basis from January through to December, workers believe that they will be out of work by August and won’t be able to survive with no income,” Mhlakane elaborated. “This behaviour by fishing companies is inhuman and immoral as workers surely cannot be expected to survive with no income.”