Walvisbay- Employees at Seawork Fish Processors have complained that the company’s management refuses to accept medical letters from their doctors whenever they take sick leaves.
One of the workers of the fishing company who has spoken to Metro on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation says it is very difficult to convince their supervisors the sick leave forms they present are genuine.
“My supervisor once asked me, if it’s only me who gets sick all the time, yet she knows the environment in which we work is very cold. Whenever one falls sick at work, it is not easy to get permission to get out of the factory, unless they faint or show overboard signs of illness. And when you manage to get out and return with a sick leave certificate, they [supervisors] say it’s fake. We don’t even get proper clothes to keep us warm here; all we get are safety boots and aprons,” she laments.
Esme Hanganda, who is a former employee at the company says having come all the way from the North in search for employment and nailing her first job at the fishing company as a general worker, she had to quit it, because of such unfair treatment.
As excited as she was about her new job, Hanganda says it affected her health, as she was not used to the weather conditions there, especially that of the working environment.
“When I started working at the factory, I would always fall sick, which seemed like a joke to my supervisor. I would complain to her about the cold but she would mostly dismiss me, saying I was just faking it,” she recounts.
Although she would issue several doctor’s letters to her supervisor about her short illnesses, she would mostly accept them half-heartedly.
“So I decided to keep my health in check at the expense of my job. If anything, I wouldn’t have kept it if I kept falling ill. I understand all fish factories have the same working environment but it’s good to work for one that cares about its employees,” she says.
In response to these allegations, the factory manager, Pierre Marais, says they are totally unfounded and that the company accepts all medical letters from legit doctors, unless they notice inconsistencies.
“We do not reject the medical letters issued by legit medical practitioners but there are employees who make changes on the documents while others issue letters from the same doctor, claiming they have the same sickness. These types of actions raise suspicion,” Marais says, adding, most employees get booked off for unreasonable periods of time compared to the nature of their illnesses.
“Sometimes the workers ask for leave and if denied, they return with sick leave forms from doctors through which they are booked for the same period of time they had initially asked for and the company has no choice but to reject such letters,” says Marais
Marais claims most of the sick notes presented by the employees come from one particular doctor but falls short of revealing his identity.
Metro learnt the doctor in question is called Dr Esteban Blazic. He could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.