File photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
West Coast employees, most of them women, at a mussel factory marked Women’s Day by calling for better wages.

For the past week, about 50 employees have been on strike at Blue Ocean Mussels’ Velddrif plant.

Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) shop steward and employee at the factory for the past 12 years, Misty Don, said they wanted a 12% increase.

The company offered 4.5%, which employees rejected. Don said they had met with company executives but talks so far had proved fruitless.

“Workers are unhappy because the company recently bought new machinery and a new freezer, which cost millions. We will not give up, and are willing to accept an 8% increase,” Don said.

There are occasions when the fishing season takes a dip, and two years ago Don and others were at home for four months without an income, she pointed out.

Company chief executive JC Smit said a downturn in the economy and other natural factors had impacted the functions of the business.

“Our current offer is the latest CPI figure, which is 4.6%.

"However, Fawu and our employees also have additional demands in regard to production and annual bonuses. These demands aren’t linked to set targets, which we’d like to have in place.

"We’re still waiting on feedback from the union in this regard. The 8% has not been officially presented to our organisation."

Smit said their wages were the highest in the bivalve industry, which includes mussel and oyster farming.

“With the current downturn in the economy and other natural factors, which are outside management’s control, we need to manage all our costs as best we can. 

"Our current offer is to ensure that we can provide all of our more than 180 employees with sustainable employment for the foreseeable future,” Smit said.