Eloped vessel employees to be retrenched

Namibian shareholders kept in the dark

24 February 2020 | Fishing

Phillip Munenguni; NUNW vice-president; "Saga Seafood will cease operations in Namibia on 31 March 2020.”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]

Around 210 employees of the MV Saga and MV Geysir vessels will be retrenched next month.

These employees were left stranded earlier this month after both vessels left Namibian waters just days apart. The owner, Samherji, said that Saga left for repairs in Spain, while Geysir left to fish in Mauritania.

During a meeting on Monday between the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) and Saga Seafood, it was confirmed that these workers will be retrenched.

NUNW’s vice-president Phillip Munenguni said that the workers will be receiving their notice letters on Wednesday.

“The company has not secured any quotas, nor have they signed any catch agreements with other Namibian companies. Saga Seafood will cease operations in Namibia on 31 March 2020.”

He said that they will draft proposals in terms of the Labour Act for employees to receive their retrenchment packages.

“Tomorrow we will officially meet with the employees about their retrenchment packages and discuss how it should be paid according to our law.”

Munenguni said that 32 employees left with the Geysir for Mauritania, however it is unclear what will happen with these employees.

“We wanted to know from Geysir management if these workers will also be retrenched. We were told that it depends on their employment contracts. At the moment we have no idea what will happen. We are trying to make contact with them. We are afraid that the Icelanders will retrench them there where they are. We do not know where they are or what’s happening to them but we are trying our best to locate them.”

In another meeting, the two unions met with ArticNam – a joint venture between Namibian shareholders and Samherji – which centred around the retrenched employees of the Heinaste vessel.

The Heinaste is currently in the possession of Namibian authorities after it was seized for a second time. The first seizure was in December 2019, when it was caught fishing illegally in Namibian waters. The captain, Angrimur Brynjolfsson (67), pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of N$950 000 earlier this month. The Walvis Bay magistrate’s court also ordered the vessel to be returned to its owners with all its documents.

The second seizure was carried out under the premise of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). The necessary requirements of what the Article states have been fulfilled, such as that the vessel was used in relation to Samherji’s alleged bribery of Namibian officials to the tune of N$150 million.

Employees of the Heinaste were retrenched in 2019, but they did not receive correct retrenchment packages in accordance with the labour law.

“None of the Samherji representatives attended the meeting, except the representatives from the Namibian shareholders which included Epango Fishing and Synco Fishing. The idea was to figure out how it happened that the workers were not fully paid what was due to them although there were a number of proposals with regard to their exit packages. The Namibian representatives indicated that they were under the impression that the workers received what they were supposed to. They were also not informed on what was happening to Heinaste and its crew.”

Munenguni said that they’ve developed solutions to work together with the Namibian shareholders of ArticNam to approach the relevant authorities on the Heinaste vessel.

“We want to make sure that this vessel remains here for the Namibians and is used to benefit our people.”

ArticNam indicated that they want their vessel back and would reinstate the retrenched workers.

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