Fishing industry employees demand that quota auction to be stopped and land for housing
Hundreds of employees within the fishing industry marched to the offices of the ministry of fisheries and marine resources and the Walvis Bay municipality on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the workers, the government objective quota that is auctioned off, is placing their job security at risk. They also demanded that the Walvis Bay municipality avail land to the various fishing companies in order to build houses as they are tired of living in shacks.
In a petition handed over for the attention of the fisheries minister Derek Klazen, read by shop steward Atamasius Shikokola, the workers expressed their disappointment with the finance and fisheries ministries. “Government has once again invited foreign companies to participate in the government objective quota auction, availing 14 000MT. This arrangement puts our job security at high risk with many companies not wanting to give increment to the employees. Others do not offer permanent contracts and rule out giving bonuses to their employees citing the fact that they are buying quota on the public auction at very high prices.”
Shikokola further stated that there is no reason to sell quota on public auction. “Namibian companies and employees have the capacity to harvest marine resources. Sometimes fishing factories closes down due to the lack of quota. Some workers are working shorter shifts, while other companies apply the ‘no work, no pay’ principle because there is not enough quota to run the factory for 11 months.”
He further said that to add insult to injury, the fisheries ministry is busy with amendments to the Act and intends to add a section dealing with the auction of fishing quota. “We are against this in its entirety and we are demanding that this be put to a stop with immediate effect.”
Shikokola pointed out that the fishing industries employs about 14 500 people of which majority is women. “If jobs in the fisheries sector are lost then other businesses will suffer and more jobs will be lost.”
He also explained that when fish is bought on auction, the ministry cannot force international buyers to catch it with Namibian vessels as these may be catching fish for Namibian companies and will only be available to assist international bidders once they have caught their own quota. “This will not satisfy international bidders who will want to bring vessels into the country with their own fishers.”
Shikokola pointed out that Namibian right holders also make social contributions such as supporting schools and feeding schemes. “Bidders from outside the country do not have such obligations. We demand for social dialogue before the ministry of fisheries continue with the fishing quota auction. The possibility of mass industrial action is highly likely in the fishing industry. The union will not rest until all these issues are resolved amicably.”
A second petition was handed over to the municipality of Walvis Bay by Paulus Hango, the president of the Namibian Seaman and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu).
This document highlighted that many employees in the fishing industry are sleeping in backyard shacks without a shower or toilet. “Some employers in the industry have agreed with the union that they are prepared to build houses for their employees if the council makes land available. Some companies have shown us letters they wrote to the town councillors but without any response, particularly with the previous town council.”
According to Hango the union wrote letters to the mayor of Walvis Bay and Erongo governor on three different occasions, but received no response. “Our request is very simple – we want council to allocate land to each fishing company to build houses for their employees. We are requesting undeveloped land, which we do not want for free. The workers are prepared to pay a reasonable fee.”
He also suggested that council repossess undeveloped land. “Some companies were given land 10 years ago and no development has taken place. Council needs to take back this land.”
The mayor of Walvis Bay Trevino Forbes, accepted the petition. “Your cries have been heard by this council a long time ago. I cannot answer for the failures or successes of the previous council. This year we have met with two fishing companies and we are looking into assisting this companies. If you have attended our council meetings, you would have seen that the issue of land for fishing companies have been discussed. We are looking at this very seriously.”