Unions united on factory workers’ cause
A matter of life and death
23 July 2020 | Fishing
The president of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) Paulus Hango says trade unions representing workers in the fishing industry are concerned about the future of more than 600 employees of Seaflower Pelagic Processors in Walvis Bay.
Hango addressed the affected workers today, emphasising that the only solution to avoid the retrenchment of employees and the subsequent closure of the factory, is if government gives a quota to the company.
According to the union leader, employees have not worked since March and many of those facing retrenchment are youths and part time students who are working to make ends meet.
“Their jobs are at risk; the company has given notice that it intends to terminate their employment contracts. This means that as from 1 August, the 600 employees will have no jobs. Loss of employment should be avoided at all costs as it means no food and no security. Many of these workers have no savings or any access to credit.”
Hango said that Seaflower is one of the busiest wet fish horse mackerel processing plants and that it was constructed to add value to fish products.
“This means that fish are caught as wet fish with fishing vessels and processes, and canned on land at a factory. By adding value, the company employs more persons compared to freezer vessels.”
He also called for what he termed the “auctioning of quotas: to be investigated.
“This way of doing things will cause a lot of instability in the industry. Many will lose their jobs due to a company not being able to secure a quota during the public auction process. Companies will simply stop operating and workers will be retrenched.”
Hango said that the unions were supportive of government’s fight against corruption.
“Corruption should be investigated and dealt with by the court. Those found guilty should be punished accordingly.”
He added that the prevailing Covid-19 enforced lockdown had further complicated the situation.
“These workers cannot travel out of the region to go and stay with their families. They do not have enough money to pay rent and are now facing evictions. We are worried that they will become unproductive citizens and revert to criminal activities to survive.”
The Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) also called on the minster of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana, to hear the plea of the workers and not to turn his back on them.
“This is a very important issue. We plead with the minister to look into the matter and give fishing quotas to the company with the aim of securing the jobs of the affected employees. We also want the law to take its course with regard to the issue the company is facing due to the allegations levelled against it,” the union’s regional coordinator Johannes Shayuka said.
NAFAU suggested that quotas be given to the company with strict conditions attached to the awarded rights.
“Employees should be permanently employed, receive a housing and transport allowance, medical aid and become beneficiaries of a pension fund. By awarding a quota to Sea Flower, government would ensure that the company kick-starts its canning factory and provides jobs to an additional 440 persons,” the union said.