Pilchard moratorium could sink Etosha Fishing…480 workers face the chop

Home National Pilchard moratorium could sink Etosha Fishing…480 workers face the chop
Pilchard moratorium could sink Etosha Fishing…480 workers face the chop

WALVIS BAY – At least 480 employees of Etosha Fishing, one of the oldest fishing companies in Namibia, will be without jobs as of next month if the company goes ahead with the intended retrenchments and closure. 

The company notified the labour commissioner of its intention to terminate the employment contracts in April this year, as required by the Labour Act (Act 11 of 2007).

The mainstay of its business over the years has been the canning of pilchards for leading brands such as Lucky Star and Glenryck South Africa, however, Etosha Fishing has been battling to stay afloat since 2015 due to a decline in pilchards that ultimately resulted in a ban on their harvesting of pilchards in 2018.

Francois van der Merwe, the spokesperson for the company, confirmed their intention to retrench but indicated that meetings have been taking place.

“Hence, I don’t have the latest on the said retrenchment due to ongoing meetings. However, we would know the outcome by next week, and if anything has changed since the announcement,” he said.

Etosha Fishing has been importing pilchards from Morocco for years now to stay afloat due to the moratorium. However, the exercise has become costly for the company, which has experienced labour unrest, due to a decrease in working hours and low wages.

Etosha in 2019 was also forced to retrench 19 employees and sell three vessels due to the moratorium.

Derek Klazen, the minister of fisheries during the annual fishing industry address in November last year, said the pilchard fishery remains in a precarious state and that a scientific survey, conducted in March 2022 showed the spawning stock biomass of pilchard was also found to be insignificant.

He, along with the labour minister Utoni Nujoma, also confirmed on Friday that they have been in talks with Etosha Fishing to avoid job losses.

The fisheries minister also expressed concern about the imminent joblessness due to the unavailability of pilchards in Namibian waters. “There has been zero biomass for the past five years, and we are all aware that they fought hard to sustain jobs by importing pilchards from Morocco,” Klazen said.

He explained that Etosha initially wanted 10 000MT but their request could not be fully met as the government’s objective quota is already set. “Cabinet could only give them 5 000MT but we are trying to engage and see how we can avoid job losses,” Klazen said.

Employees of Etosha stated that they remain hopeful that their jobs could be saved. 

According to them, their earnings have also been affected over the years by the pilchard moratorium. 

“We were informed about the quota the government gave the company, but it is really not enough to keep us afloat, especially with such a huge workforce and operational cost. We were hoping that the government gives us more so that we can rather continue canning horse mackerel,” one of the workers said.

Namibia Seaman and Allied Workers Union president, Paulus Hango, who represents Etosha employees, also indicated that they will only know the fate of the employees after a meeting with the company. “It’s really a difficult situation, and it would be sad if these jobs cannot be saved. Etosha is one of the oldest companies, and we are hoping that the outcome will be positive after Friday’s meeting,” Hango said.