The Viking Fishing Group employs 1 250 South Africans across its fishing, processing, marketing and aquaculture operations. The Group’s main activity is deep-sea and inshore trawling and, consequently, the majority of employees are engaged in fishing. Contrary to widely held opinion, fishermen working in South Africa’s deep-sea and inshore fisheries are not underpaid or exploited − instead their interests are protected by a unique labour relations framework.
A Bargaining Council for the fishing industry was established in 2001. This was a proactive move on the part of employers and unions in the trawl fisheries who acknowledged that neither the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, nor the Merchant Shipping Act provide for the rights of fishers.
Viking Fishing is a founder member of the Bargaining Council for the fishing industry. The Bargaining Council provides a forum in which trade unions and employers negotiate around salaries and benefits for seagoing workers. A Collective Agreement sets out basic conditions of employment for workers in the deep-sea and inshore trawl fisheries and covers the majority of Viking Fishing’s employees. The basic conditions include set daily wages for each category of worker, set hours of work, regulated rest and leave periods, as well as paid shore leave and annual holidays.
Like all Viking Fishing employees, the company’s fishermen are provided with a range of employee benefits. These include:
Viking Fishing offers both a Pension and Provident Fund. Membership is compulsory for all employees, irrespective of age. Employees contribute 7%, while Viking Fishing contributes between 10 and 12%. The benefits provided by both funds are:
Employees have a choice of becoming members of either Discovery Health Medical Aid or the Trawler and Line Fishermen’s Union Sick Fund, both of which offer full medical benefits. Irrespective of the scheme selected, Viking Fishing contributes on a 50/50 basis, together with the employee. The benefits provided by both funds include:
Over and above the paying of competitive remuneration packages to employees, Viking Fishing extends housing, essential services and educational loans to its employees.
Housing assistance loans assist employees to make a deposit on a home and pay the costs associated with transfer of ownership. In some circumstances (for example when finance is not granted by banks or other institutions) employees may qualify for a 100% home loan. Viking Fishing also provides loans for home improvements and alterations. Interest rates are subsidised.
Essential service loans cover outstanding rentals; rates and taxes; water and electricity bills; school fees; study loans; and bursaries. Loans of less than R3 000 are provided interest free.
All Viking Fishing employees are encouraged to improve their personal knowledge and qualifications and, as such, the company extends loans for private, part-time study. This includes literacy and basic adult education. Where appropriate, loans are written off upon successful completion of the course of study.