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Fisheries Minister Blames Companies Without Quotas For Fishermen’s Resignation

By: Justicia Shipena

Fisheries minister Derek Klazen says his ministry has discovered that companies without fishing quotas operate in Walvis Bay, luring fishermen into joining their companies under better salaries.

Klazen said this in the national assembly on Tuesday while responding to the mass resignation of fishermen employed under the governmental employment redressing program.

This comes as about 612 fishermen employed under the Cavema Joint Venture resigned.

The 612 fishermen are said to have been working for the joint venture following a cabinet directive to re-employ over 1,100 fishermen in the industry.

The venture is also said to be the government’s intervention to employ them after they lost their jobs due to an illegal strike in 2015.

The resignation of the fishermen came to light in a letter dated 29 August addressed to minister Klazen and signed by their representative Fillip Shimwooshili.

Kuiseb Fishing Enterprises, Hadago Fishing, Cavema Fishing, Rainbow Fishing, Vernier Investment and Camoposatu Investment make up the joint venture.

According to Klazen, companies without fishing quotas and employing fishermen birthed the resignation.

“There are companies without fishing quotas operating in Walvis Bay luring some of these employees to joining their companies under prospects of better salaries that birthed the mass resignations from four companies,” said Klazen.

He said the fisheries ministry attempted to dissuade the resigning employees from uncoupling from their allocated companies, but these pleas fell on deaf ears.

“The total number of fishermen employed by the two companies were 635, and 612 have tendered their resignation,” he said.

The minister in the National Assembly said there seems to exist a flawed understanding and perception amongst some affected fishermen.

He added that there is also a flawed understanding that the fishing quota against which the employment of the affected employees has been secured is and remains the property of the affected workers, adding that these quotas are transferable to wherever the employees want it to go.

“Obviously, that understanding negates the government’s objective of ensuring employment for the affected workers and maintaining stability and job tenure security in the fishing industry,” he said.

Klazen stated that the regretful emergence of new companies claiming to offer these workers better salaries than they are currently earning further compounds the problem.

“They required the fishermen to resign, join a new company with no fishing right nor quota and no active employment.”

He stamped that the leadership of the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Union representing the workers has not helped advise its rank and file correctly regarding the consequences of their actions.

On Monday, the union, in an interview with New Era newspaper through its secretary general Leonard Armas denied being responsible for the resignation of the 612 fishermen.

In this vein, Klazen stated that the ministry would look at modalities on how all the affected fishermen can find active duty employment within the fishing industry.

In addition, the fisheries ministry will also begin with consultations with recognised labour unions in the fishing sector to understand the fishing quota redressing employment in the fishing industry and who owns these quotas.

“My ministry will continue to encourage the affected workers to guard their jobs against unscrupulous elements, offering them lofty dreams of greener pastures while ensuring the return of normalcy and stability within the fishing industry regarding jobs.”

He also stamped that the labour ministry would begin negotiations with the companies involved to reinstate the workers.

“And the workers to withdraw their letters of resignations,” said Klazen.

Giving his statement in the parliament, Klazen said in 2015, NamSov, a Namibian fishing right holder, laid off a number of workers owing to 48 per cent drastic cuts in its horse mackerel quota allocation.

By October 2015, an estimated 1,000 fishermen lost their jobs aboard numerous fishing vessels belonging to various fishing companies in the horse mackerel and hake sub-sectors following their unwitting participation in an illegal industrial strike.

This Klazen explained that the cabinet directed the ministry of fisheries to establish mechanisms to address the plight of the affected fishermen who lost their jobs.

Following this directive, the then-acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana engaged the affected fishermen in collaboration with the fishing companies.

“Consultations, negotiations and analyses culminated into the reabsorption of the affected fishermen by the successful companies against the availing of a commensurate fishing quota by the ministry,” said Klazen.

He emphasised that the agreements required the companies to employ the affected fishermen permanently with fringe benefits similar to those prevalent in the sector and pay them salaries identical to those rendering similar work in the industry.

“Since the re-employment of some of these fishermen in 2015, not all have taken up active employment simply because the industry has no actual work for them to render on factory or vessels,” he further explained.

The minister stated that those who could not be absorbed as active employees remained on the companies’ payroll and received a basic salary of N$4 000.

Media reports this week showed that the fishermen resigned because they wanted to do actual work instead of getting an allowance of N$4 100 per month.

“Some found active placements and continue to render their services in the various fisheries sectors aboard vessels or on the factory floor. To date, the ministry remains seized with the matter aimed at finding active employment for the affected people, including the duty placement of a further 212 employees who lost their jobs due to abandonment and abscondment of Icelandic fishing companies’ vessels, Salga and Geysir.”

The Salga and Geysir vessels belonged to Icelandic fishing company Samherji which is implicated in the fishrot fraud and corruption saga involving prominent businessmen in Namibia and two former Namibian ministers.

The fisheries ministry said it plans to conduct a verification audit to establish the total number of fishermen employed under the Government Employment Redress Program who have not taken up active employment.

Justicia Shipena

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