WALVIS BAY - Samherji-owned Saga Seafood yesterday announced it would cease operations in the country end of next month. Samherji, through Saga Seafood and the Geysir vessel, employed about 210 fishermen who are now left jobless.
The company also failed to sign any catch agreements with other local firms, resulting in its closure. A meeting was held on Monday afternoon at Walvis Bay between the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) and Saga Seafood to discuss a way forward.
Initially, two Samherji-owned vessels: Saga and Geysir left earlier this month without any prior notice, leaving the workers uncertain about their future. Geysir is currently fishing in Mauritania with 32 Namibian fishermen on board, while Saga apparently went for repair in Spain. A third vessel, Heinaste, was impounded by the Namibian authorities recently. However, NUNW’s vice-president Phillip Munenguni yesterday told New Era that Saga Seafood informed the unions and the labour ministry about their intention to retrench and stop operating in Namibia.
None of Samjheri’s board members attended the meeting, despite indicating earlier that they would do so. Only their representative Jack Thiart was in attendance, much to the chagrin of Munenguni.
“This clearly shows how they are treating Namibian workers,” he said. According to Munenguni, employees will receive their notice letters today. In the meantime, he said, the union will draft a proposal in terms of the Labour Act in order for employees to receive fair retrenchment packages from the company.
Meanwhile, Munenguni also expressed his concern about the 32 employees who left with the Geysir for Mauritania. “We have no knowledge of the wellbeing of the crew that was taken. We also wanted to know whether they are still employed; however, management indicated it depends on their employment contracts. We are trying to make contact with them. We are afraid the Icelanders will retrench them there – where they are. We do not know where they are or what is happening to them but we are trying our best to locate them.”
The Icelandic company, Samherji, is at the centre of the international fishing bribery scandal implicating former Namibian ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhard Esau, as well as local businessmen. Samherji reportedly secured access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia by paying bribes of around N$150 million to politicians and businessmen between 2012 and 2018. Last month, the company announced it is disinvesting its operation in Namibia but did not give a timeframe, only saying the process “will take some time”.
Left hanging… Saga Seafood employees were left without jobs this week.
Photo: Eveline de Klerk
Eveline de Klerk
2020-02-26 06:53:19 | 4 months ago