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Chilean wellboat operator Naviera faces strike threat

The 57.89-metre long Orca Chono is one of three wellboats operated by Naviera Orca Chile. It was built by Aas Mek Verksted in Norway in 2003 and reconditioned in 2012. Photo: Naviera Orca website.
The 57.89-metre long Orca Chono is one of three wellboats operated by Naviera Orca Chile. It was built by Aas Mek Verksted in Norway in 2003 and reconditioned in 2012. Photo: Naviera Orca website.

Chilean wellboat company Naviera Orca is facing a potential strike by unionised officers and crew over their pay and conditions.

The company has also been accused of bringing non-union personnel on to its vessels instead of unionised sailors to weaken and truncate a strike.

The Union of Officers and Crewmen of Naviera Orca Chile told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that the company’s pay offer was being voted on yesterday and today.

If it is not accepted, the strike will take effect from January 3 if the subsequent mandatory mediation is not successful.

Equal salaries

Union president César Rojas said Naviera Orca is embarking external personnel on the ships “and not embarking the union members who have already completed their compensatory rest periods”.

This was an effort to weaken and truncate the strike, something considered in the Chilean Labour Code as an unfair practice “which has already been denounced to the Puerto Montt Labour Inspectorate”.

“We as a union seek in this process of collective bargaining, an equalisation of salaries, in reference to the remuneration of the newly hired workers,” said Rojas.

“We consider it unprecedented that our employer does not respect workers who have been in the shipping company for years, as well as clarifying that our salaries are below the market [rate], having to fill [extra] jobs due to the scarce endowments and double roles that are not part of our employment contracts.”

‘Solve this abuse’

Rojas continued: “We also seek to equate the days of embarkation and rest with the shipping companies that have adopted the same number of days of work and rest, bearing in mind that, during part of the pandemic, the company worked with this boarding system.

“We will trust that the Labour Inspectorate will solve this abuse as soon as possible, which denigrates freedom of association and our rights as workers in the Chilean merchant marine.”

The Orca Yka, built by Larsnes for Naviera Orca Chile, is due to begin a contract for Salmones Camanchaca next year. Photo: Naviera Orca website.
The Orca Yka, built by Larsnes for Naviera Orca Chile, is due to begin a contract for Salmones Camanchaca next year. Photo: Naviera Orca website.

Orca Yka

Naviera Orca operates three Norwegian-built wellboats in Chile, with a fourth, the Orca Yka, due for delivery from Norway’s Larsnes shipyard in March next year. It will be the company’s biggest and most sophisticated vessel and is contracted to work for Salmones Camanchaca.

Last year Naviera Orca won a court case in which rival wellboat operator Solvtrans Chile was ordered to pay it more than US $4.6 million in damages. Solvtrans Chile was appealing the decision.

The case centred around Naviera Orca’s claim that Chilean ownership of Solvtrans Chile was a sham because its general manager Víctor Vargas was able to buy a 51% stake in the hugely valuable company from Norwegian wellboat company Sølvtrans for a sum equivalent to around £100,000. The law states that Chilean shipping businesses must be majority-owned by Chilean nationals.

Solvtrans Chile claims that Naviera Orca is itself a Norwegian subsidiary of Rostein, pointing out that Rostein owner Odd Einar Sandøy also owns a quarter share of Naviera Orca. Rostein says Sandøy’s shareholding is a personal investment, and that Rostein has “no interest in Chilean companies or any vessel operating in that country”.