Seaflower retrenches workers
Factory workers lose jobs
25 June 2020 | Fishing
More than 600 fixed term factory workers find themselves without jobs, after the quota for Seafood Pelagic Processing Plant was taken away by government.
In a letter to their employees, the company explained that the reason for the non-renewal of fixed term employment contracts is due to the non-availability of sufficient quota for the company to continue with its operations.
The workers petitioned the office of the governor, Neville Andre on 10 June and asking the governor to intervene and save their jobs and livelihood.
According to the petition that was signed by 511 workers, the company is to be awarded 50 000 tons of horse mackerel quota annually for 15 years in terms of the government gazette no. 6307 of 15 May 2017.
The company was however only allocated 16 666.67 tons for this year and its vessels stopped operating on 27 May.
The employees have been at home since then. This resulted in an N$3 million per week loss for the company which had planned to put all of its 600 fixed term employees on a permanent employment contract on 1 July.
About 55 permanent employees as well as 450 future cannery jobs are now at stake while permanent staff members also receive a 50% salary cut.
The governor said that he will have a meeting with management next week, to try and mitigate the situation.
The former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernard Esau is quoted as saying during a visit by the Kenyan president to the plant in 2019 that he had approved 50 000 tons of quota for Fishcor to develop land based freezing and value add capacity over a period of 15 years.
This was published in Government Gazette No.6307 of 15 May 2017.
The letter of dismissal issued to the employees (seen by the Erongo) states that employment contracts that was supposed to end on 30 June will not be extended.
“As has been communicated to you at the general staff meeting held on 10 June 2020, the reason for the non-renewal of your fixed term employment contract is due to the non-availability of sufficient quota for the company to continue with its operations. Should the situation change for the better and sufficient quota is allocated to the company, you may be considered for re-employment should your services be available at the time,” it reads.
The workers have been informed that their final salaries due to them will be electronically transferred their bank accounts by no later than 30 June 2020.
“Payments will comprise of a final salary due for actual hours worked during the period 16 May 2020 until 30 June 2020 as well as leave pay-out of accumulated annual leave days up to and including 30 June 2020.”
Seaflower announced intentions early this year to proceed with the construction of a canning factory at their land-based processing plant in Walvis Bay by the third and fourth quarter of this year.
The idea was to recruit 450 workers. This would have ensure that the company runs the largest onshore processing plant of horse mackerel in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The factory based in Walvis Bay is a joint venture between Fishcor and African Selection Fishing (Namibia) (Pty) Ltd.
Once the cannery was to be staffed, more than 1 100 permanent and fixed contract employment opportunities would have been created for the fishing industry.
Adolf Burger, the chief executive officer of the Seaflower plant in Walvis Bay confirmed that they only received quota to catch 16 660 tons of horse mackerel.
“This was despite the agreement that we will be receiving the full quota of 50 000 tonnes, which we received last year.”
“We have two vessels and a factory that costs us N$12 million per month to maintain. Despite this we were simply told that this will be our last quota.”
Burger cautioned that the factory in Walvis Bay should not be confused with the one based in Lüderitz.
“Fishcor owns only 40 percent in the Seaflower Pelagic Processing plant in Walvis Bay while Fishcor fully owns the Seaflower Whitefish processing plant in Lüderitz.”
NovaNam’s quota for hake was also significantly reduced. Depsite this the managing director of the company Edwin Kamatoto explained that retrenchments are not on the table.
“The tweet that were circulating on social media stating that we are retrenching our workers are merely speculative. The company was not party to the incorrect information that appeared in the media.”
Kamatoto explained that due to the significant reduction of hake quotas they hosted meetings with their 2200 employees.
“As management we carried out our obligation and responsibility to directly inform the company’s first and foremost stakeholders, who are the employees. With the strict observance of Covid protocols, the face-to-face meetings with all members of staff took place the week of 12 June. The message was conveyed that the quota situation meant that the company would be unable to continue catching and processing beyond this week, being three months before the end of the hake fishing season.”
He emphasised “Retrenchment are not in our DNA. If we receive positive feedback this week, the situation might change, but until then our two vessels which are still at sea will come back and we will close earlier.”
He explained that the company usually closes around September which is the end of the hake fishing season.