Factory workers beseech president to rescue their livelihoods

Save our souls

22 July 2020 | Fishing

Walvis Bay

Employees at a local fish factory who are facing an uncertain future, are begging the minister of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana, to hand the company they work for a lifeline in the form of a fishing quota.

The employees pleaded with president Hage Geingob to intervene and to save their jobs by instructing the minister to allocate Sea Flower Pelagic Processing’s remaining quota, as per an agreement and GRN Gazette 6307 dated May 15, 2017.

“We want to reiterate that we are employees of Seaflower Pelagic Processing based in Walvis Bay, and should not be linked to Seaflower White Fish in Lüderitz,” said Charlotte Solomons, a worker’s representative at the factory.

She said that the company was established under a collective Cabinet decision and Government Gazette number 6307, dated 15 May 2017.

“With the NDP 5 objective of job creation, a commitment to allocate 50 000 tons quota per year for the period of 15 years and an investment of N$500 million was made. Six hundred and fifty-five employees where then recruited and started working for the factory in January 2019.”

‘Sold to the highest bidder’

Solomons said the workers deemed it prudent to inform the president and the newly appointed Fishcor board members that the 655 employees (aged between 21 and 27) which include women, people with disabilities and marginalised community members, will not be part of the Namibian house as from the end of this month.

“Our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers did not die so that our natural resources could be auctioned to the highest bidder. The minister is fully aware of our circumstances, as he was already briefed by our management in February. A commitment was made for us to become permanent employees as from 1 July 2020 when the company gets all its full quota.”

According to Solomons, the workers feel that there is an element of unfairness from the minister.

“We hear that other companies are getting preferences in quota allocations. What is so important about them? Several attempts have been made by the company to have an audience with the minister. He refuses to meet with us or the management for reasons only known to him. What is our sin? Can the minster explain his decision to withdraw/withhold the quota to the president and the public at large? We are tired of the so-called investigations that we do not see happening.”

Disappointed

She added that the workers are disappointed with comments made by the minister about Seaflower Pelagic Processing’s employment figures even though the minister is fully aware of the employment numbers.

“A plea was signed by 95% of the workers and provided to him. We are worried and concerned that the multimillion-dollar infrastructure we are sitting on here will turn into another Ramatex. We are worried about vessels standing idle. We are worried about losing our market customers such as Pick n Pay, Checkers and in other countries as well. We are worried about our footprint in the market and being the biggest pelagic land-based processing facility in the Sub-Sahara region.”

Mathew Simasiku, a shop steward at the factory, said that the 655 workers who signed a plight that was submitted to the office of the governor, the minister of fisheries, the minister of labour and the minister of public enterprises, were the very same persons crying for help.

Simasiku said the employment provided by Seaflower Pelagic Processing was very important and the only means of income to sustain the daily living of both the workers and their families.

“We are now unable to provide for our families. Most of the employees who are students cannot pay to continue their studies at UNAM, IUM and other institutions. We are losing the ghettos we live in because we cannot afford to pay rent anymore.”

According to Simasiku, young female employees will have no other option than to become sex workers while young men would be forced into criminal activities because of the situation they are facing and the pressure to feed their families.

“Walvis Bay still faces restriction, therefore we are unable to go back to our homelands. This situation we find ourselves in will have a huge impact on the rapid increase of Covid-19. We will be forced to roam around looking for food instead of staying at home.”

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