Fishing factory workers demand more quotas

Peaceful demonstration highlights discontent
More than 400 employees from Gendev Fishing Group and Princess Brand Processors have called on the fisheries minister to allocate quotas or allow fishing within the 200-metre contour line.
Nikanor Nangolo
More than 400 employees from Gendev Fishing Group and Princess Brand Processors are demanding that the ministry of Fisheries and Marine resources (MFMR) provide increased fishing quotas to the companies they work for.

The workers staged a peaceful protest, marched and handed over petitions to representatives of the MFMR and the ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations and Employment Creation in Walvis Bay as part of a march organised by various unions representing members within the fishing industry. According to the workers factories are standing vacant because of an extreme and limited fish catching capacity. They also demand a basic salary, housing, medical aid and pension benefits compared to only the salary they currently receive. "How long must we suffer like this. How will we feed our families. There is no hope for use to continue working in this corrupted industry."

Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources

A shop steward for the Princess Brand Processors employees, Silas Petrus, called for clarity from the ministry of fisheries about the criteria used by the ministry with regard to the allocation of quotas. "Princess Brand Processors is a Namibian-owned organisation with two vessels and a factory which can accommodate up to 2500 employees. This organisation has been buying quotas to sustain its employees while seeking an audience with the minister to discuss the allocation of a quota to them. The ministry went silent. Why don't you want to allocate quotas to this company?"

The workers called on the minister of Fisheries, to allocate quota to the company or allows fishing within the 200- meter contour line and questioned if any changes were brought to the fishing industry as a result if the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5). "We request that the minister put politics aside when labour related matters arise. We want to benefit from these resources as much as other Namibians do. How long should we suffer like this? How will we feed our families, pay rent, and survive if there's nothing or no hope to continue working in this corrupted industry? We are suffering and dwelling around like refugees in our own country."

Ruben Mundilo a marine engineer at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources acknowledged and received the petition.

Confederation of Namibian Fishing Association

The chairman of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations (CNFA) Matti Amukwa acknowledged the concerns of the workers and told them that they came to deliver their petition at the wrong address and refuse to take the petition. "Gendev Fishing Group and Princess Brand Processors are not affiliated to the CNFA. Even if I accept your petition, there is nothing much I can do with it because the companies that you represent are not members of the confederation and the confederation cannot attend to the issues of non affiliated members."

Amukwa recently emphasised that the position of CNFA remains that no fishing should take place within the 200 - meter contour line irrespective of whether the area has been gazette as a closed area or not. The workers accused CNFA of being bias. According to them all chairpersons of the organisation are affiliated to a company that apparently resigned from the Wet Landed Horse Mackarel Association. The association recently indicated that 1 300 jobs could be lost as the sector struggles to catch fish outside the 200 - meter isobar area in winter months.

A representative of the Namibian Seaman and Allied Workers Union and shop steward Aina Nampweya emphasised that more challenges and fewer opportunities remain in the fishing industry. "The Namibian employees employed at Princess Brand Processors and others in the wet are the most affected as they cannot provide food for their families. We want the minister to come to the negotiating table and reach an amicable solution with our employer. How accurate are the scientists about not allowing fishing in the 200-meter contour line zone while some vessels are disregarding this restriction."

Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations and Employment Creation

A representative of the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union Shop steward Hofni Jonas said that workers are demanding that the minister of labour intervene because unemployment is increasing rapidly. "We want to work so that we are able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. How will the minister of labour feel if 1300 employees loose their jobs? We respect the authorities that govern this country's resources, but we have lost hope in them. Companies are pleading with the minister of Fisheries to permit them to catch within the 200- meter contour line zone in order to provide employment."

Magano Nakapala, the Head of Administration at the ministry of Labour's Walvis Bay office received the petition and promised to channel it to the relevant authorities.