By Malisa Playter-Harry
Five Guyanese seamen have collectively made a decision to remain on a cargo vessel anchored in the Corentyne waters for over two months. They are awaiting payment from their employer.
The vessel, MV Symphony, experienced a blowout in the engine sometime back.
Reports reaching this publication revealed that the vessel had moved off from Georgetown with stone that was to be transported to Berbice. Upon its arrival in Berbice, it sailed to Nickerie, Suriname, where a shipment of rice was scheduled to be loaded to be taken to Haiti.
It never reached its destination after the mechanical issues developed. The vessel was eventually towed back to Guyana with tugs and left in the Corentyne waters, less than a mile away from Guyana’s shore.
The issues developed after efforts to contact the owner of the ship for payments.
The employees complained that the owner is not engaging with the employees.
The men are demanding wages owed to them so that they can abandon the vessel and return home.
The issue has garnered the attention of the Guyana Seafarers and General Workers Union, which is presently working aggressively along with the aggrieved workers to arrive at a resolution acceptable to the affected seamen.
One worker, Brian Alexander. who stated that he is a Guyanese living in St. Kitts and Nevis, explained that after many calls to the owner went unanswered, he is struggling to figure out what do, since he is owed over US$5000 for two months and fourteen days.
He said, “Presently, the ship is down due to engine problems and we have been trying to get in contact with the owners to see how best the situation can be rectified concerning payments and so. Some of the calls going unanswered; some when they do answer is promises you getting. I am trying to get money to take care of my family and I am trying to get home.”
Balram Hundar, who was hired as the captain but came off the vessel on the 27th April, last, disclosed that when he joined the vessel in March 2017, the first two months of being employed he was paid, but after he began “getting the money in pieces”.
According to Hundar, he was informed that there was new management for the vessel from January 2018, but prior to that and up until now, he has not received his full payments.
Hundar stressed that being someone who has to take care of his family, the situation has become draining.
“I got three young children going to school and two writing exam next year, but is the little assistance I getting from the government, and my step-son bringing a little money, and we keep living on that. I am really struggling…why am I struggling? If these guys had paid me, I would have gotten my certificate, but the boss keep making promises. When I came off the boat, I called him to ask him to assist me to get my certificate to work, because he still owed me money, but I didn’t ask for the money. I just ask that he help me with the certificate, which would have cost US$5500. He never answered me yet”.
The former captain said he is owed over US$10,000.
Victor Yearwood, who worked as an engineer on the vessel up until July 2nd said that from the information he received from the other workers is that “their supplies is minimum now, they don’t have much water, they don’t have much fuel. I think they said they got fuel up until today (last Friday) and that’s it. So the ship will be in darkness as of now, and as you know, this area is a pirate-infested area.”
He stated that his salary was supposed to be US$1800 per month, but he has not seen any payments, except G$100,000 that was sent through Western Union. He began working in June.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Guyana Seafarers and General Workers Union, Ms. Simone Fortune told reporters that the union has taken up the mantle to represent the workers in an effort to have them receive their payments.
“The crew members, they called on us to help them, and our role would be to get the right authorities to look into this, and justice, for whatever they are seeking. What we understand is that two months of their salary is not paid, and it’s almost a month now the boat has been out there and they are not hearing from anyone.”
Ms. Fortune said that efforts by the union to contact the owners have proved futile.
She however managed to contact the agent who would normally pay the workers, and he relayed to her that they are currently experiencing financial difficulties. Ms. Fortune insisted that their main focus is to have the workers paid.
Kaieteur News understands that the Ministry of Social Protection and its Labour Department have since launched an investigation into the matter. There are currently five men onboard the vessel, with fuel and food supply diminishing.
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