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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Workers at fish processing firm protest `harassment`

1st May 2012
Livestock and Fisheries Development minister Dr David Mathayo David

Several workers at a Mwanza-based fish processing company, Omega, have expressed concern over alleged harassment by the firm’s management.

As a way of expressing their anger, they last week marched to the Mwanza Central Police Station to register their complaints.

Police authorities in the region have admitted being notified on the matter, saying they are informed of complaints by six workers against Omega executive director Amin Hassanali.

According to acting Mwanza Regional Police Commander Philip Kalangi, all six are with the company’s production department and have registered their concerns with his office.

He named the aggrieved workers as Philip Abraham, Sujith Sukumaran, Rinoop Haran, Ramajith Bayene, Firoz Aram and Awanish Kumar.

“It’s true they came to my office and lodged their complaints,” Kalangi said last week, adding that the six were protesting being unfairly insulted and the management’s decision to confiscate their passports.

Kalangi explained that police and a number of other relevant government organs including the Labour Department in the Labour and Employment ministry were investigating the matter to establish if there was any evidence of the country’s labour laws having been violated.

He said before taking their concerns to police, the workers in question approached the Mwanza Regional Commissioner’s Office and asked the RC to work on their complaints.

“We (police) are proceeding with in-depth investigations on the allegations level against the Omega executive director… Should it be proved that the accusations are genuine, appropriate legal and other measures will follow,” said the acting RPC.

He however noted that police are there chiefly “to keep the peace by ensuring that people enjoy their rights without let or hindrance but also without infringing on the rights of anyone else because nobody is above the law”.

Contacted by phone yesterday for an update on the saga, particularly police investigations, the RPC said: “I personally went to the company’s premises in a bid to get details on the issue. What we discovered is that there is some form of labour dispute between the employer and workers. However, both parties have already entered into some arrangement and resolved the matter.”

Tanzania Industrial Fish Processors Association (TIFPA) chairman Dr Xavier Alfred said he was completely in the dark with respect to the matter. However, he promised to make a follow-up and keep The Guardian posted “as soon as we have something substantive to tell you”.

Livestock and Fisheries Development minister Dr David Mathayo David likewise said he would have something to say “only after I get the relevant fact of the story”, adding: “I will have to investigate and get enough correct information on what exactly happened at the fishing company you are talking about.”

Contacted for comment, Labour and Employment minister Gaudensia Kabaka said harassment against workers was unacceptable, adding: “If indeed there is a labour dispute, it could be resolved by ministry’s labour-dispute resolution units.

She said the units are in place in almost all regions across Tanzania, elaborating: “There is one in Mwanza. It would be advisable for the aggrieved workers you are talking about should go there and lodge their complaints or seek guidance on how to move on.”

Hassanali, who is targeted by the workers’ complaints, declined to comment when contacted by phone. The most he would tell our reporter was: “Please, ask the relevant persons for the facts of the matter,” not picking up his mobile phone when contacted later.

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