600 Seaflower workers set to lose jobs again

Andrew Kathindi and Kandjemuni Kamuiiri

Altogether 597 factory workers under a government fishing quota for employment deal entered with Tunacor , are again set to lose their jobs when the existing agreement expires this month , it has emerged.

Tunacor, awarded 4 000 tonnes worth of quota valued at over N$6 million by government in exchange for absorbing the Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) retrenched workers, has revealed that it only has 50 openings in the company, which the employees were free to apply when the existing deal reached last December expires this month.

The deal, struck between Fishcor’s board, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Naufau), which represents the employees, and Tunacor, has emerged to have been temporary, with an understanding that a permanent solution would be found for the employees. “Please note that there are no new contracts being set up for the 597 employees. Only those that would voluntarily opt for those 50 positions available would have a new contract of employment according to those positions. The rest will remain in the same contracts as were initially signed until the end of the agreed period,” Tunacor Chief Executive, Peya Hitula, told Windhoek Observer.

“It is important to mention that the contracts of employment for the retrenched Seaflower employees is an initiative by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Fishcor,s board to provide temporary relief for those affected workers, and their families that had been without any income for over a year. The once off quota agreed is intended to cover the cost of the relief assistance until such time as the outstanding issues between Seaflower Pelagic and Fishcor may be resolved.”

“The Government preached through the board saying that no one will lose their employment or earning until the two parties pronounce [themselves] again and that is what is happening, until now. Even the individuals [who] have not been taken up to start working are receiving the same salary as those on duty. There is a list that is coming out now, and on this list they are still receiving their remuneration as agreed,” said Penda.

According to Fishcor’s board member, Milka Mungunda, who signed the deal at the time, the agreement was due to lapse at the end of this month.

According to insiders the 50 positions on offer, which the employees can apply for, could see them earning far less remuneration than under the existing deal. “The rate of N$13 per hour is one component. The other component is based on output allowing for an additional N$1000 per employee per month, for those who wish to take up such employment,” Fishcor’s board chairperson, Heinrich Mihe Gaomab II said, adding that no employee has been forced to take up this employment but rather on voluntary basis while the case before the court is pending.

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Albert Kawana, also confirmed that only 50 permanent vacancies will be made available at Tunacor, then the existing deal expires this month.

“A number of those employees were to be absorbed within the structure of Tunacor when vacancies become available. The vacancies that are there now could number about 50 where they are also entitled to apply and to be absorbed permanently,” he said adding that he will be meeting Fishcor next week after the company requested a meeting with him.

Jacob Penda, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Naufau) Secretary General, said the union was monitoring the development urging Tunacor to find permanent position for the affected workers.

“The parties will return before the end of March to find the final solution in terms of those employees. Tunacor is taking the employees based on the permanent position that they require as Tunacor Company, apart from the agreement that has been set up by the parties.” Penda said.

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