Minister pleads with fishermen to return to work…Klazen takes swipe at union for mass resignations

Obrein Simasiku

The mass resignation by fishermen at Walvis Bay was as a result of alleged promises of hefty salaries by some fishing companies, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, has established, as it hopes it will convince the companies and the former employees to make up their differences.

This comes in the wake of 612 fishermen who resigned from a fishing joint venture company in August, and are now demanding for September salaries, as they claim they are entitled to remuneration by virtue of the provision of a fishing quota associated with them.

The revelation came to light as the Ministry was planning to conduct a verification audit in order to establish the total number of fishermen employed under the Government Employment Redress Program who have not taken up active employment since such a process began in 2015 when unemployed fishermen were being absorbed.

“It is in the midst of all these developments that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources became alive to the fact that there are companies without fishing quotas operating in Walvis Bay luring some of these employees to joining their companies under prospects of better salaries that birthed the mass resignations from four companies, namely Cavema Fishing (Pty) Ltd Joint Venture; Camoposatu Investment (Pty) Ltd and Vernier Investment (Pty) Ltd and Hodago Fishing (Pty) Ltd Joint Venture and Kuiseb Fishing Enterprises (Pty) Ltd,” said Fisheries Minister Derek Klazen, following reports of hundreds of fishermen benefiting from a cabinet decision to have them absorbed into the industry.

“The ministry attempted to dissuade the resigning employees from uncoupling from their allocated companies but these pleas fell on deaf ears.”

The total number of fishermen employed by the two companies were 635 and 612 have tendered their resignation, as of August. These formed part of the over 1000 employees who lost their jobs as a result of the 2015 illegal strike, and last year the cabinet resolved to have them absorbed into the system through the provision of fishing quotas to the joint venture companies.

“There seem to exist a flawed understanding and perception amongst some of the affected fishermen that the fishing quota against which the employment of the affected employees has been secured is and remains the property of the affected workers and further that these quotas are transferable to wherever the employees want it to go. Obviously, that understanding negates the governments’ objective of ensuring employment for the affected workers and the maintenance of stability and job tenure security in the fishing industry,” noted Klazen.

Since the re-employment of some of these fishermen in 2015, not all of them have taken up active employment simply because the industry has no actual work for them to render on factory or vessels. Those who could not be absorbed as active employees remained on the companies’ payroll and continued to receive a basic salary of N$4000.

“Some found active placements and continue to render their services in the various fisheries sectors aboard vessels or on the factory floor,” said the minister, though the fishermen now argue that not having actual work has deprived them from earning higher salaries.

“To date, the Ministry remains seized with the matter aimed at finding active employment for the affected people including the duty placement of a further 212 employees who lost their jobs as a result of abandonment and abscondment of Icelandic fishing companies’ vessels, Salga and Geysir. Therefore, the regretful emergence of new companies claiming to offer these workers better salaries than what there are currently earning further compounds the problem, in that they required the fishermen to resign, join a new company which has no fishing rights nor quota and no active employment,” stressed the Minister.

He took a swipe at the union leadership, which he said has also not been very helpful in advising its rank and file correctly regarding the consequences of their actions.

“As a remedial intervention the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources will after the completion of an employment verification audit, look at modalities how all the affected fishermen can find active duty-employment within the fishing industry. Additionally, my Ministry will begin with consultations with recognized labour unions in the fishing sector in order to create the required understanding regarding the fishing quota redressing employment in the fishing industry and who owns these quotas,” he said.

Klazen assured that the ministry will continue to encourage the affected workers to guard their jobs against unscrupulous elements offering them lofty dreams of greener pastures while ensuring the return of normalcy and stability within the fishing industry regarding jobs. He said this process will be done in conjunction with the Ministry, the Offices of the Regional Governors for Erongo and //Kharas and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation.

“Above all these my Ministry, the Ministry of Labour Industrial Relations and Employment Creation will begin with negotiations with the companies involved with the view to requesting the companies to reinstate the workers and the workers to withdraw their letters of resignations,” he promised.

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