Twenty-three employees of ArcticNam on the Heinaste vessel were awarded a settlement of N$1.8 million by the Walvis Bay Labour Court.
ArticNam is a joint venture between Icelandic partners Samherji and three Namibian joint venture companies, Sinco Fishing, Yukor Fishing and Epango Fishing. The Namibian shareholders had 51% shares in ArcticNam, who employed 107 people, including the 23 fishermen. The fishermen lost their jobs in 2019 when the company replaced them with temporary workers who were employed for about 10 months.
They were also not offered severance packages. As a result, the crewmembers approached the labour court to hold ArcticNam accountable. The vessel itself was impounded due to the ongoing Fishrot case but was later released by the prosecutor general and sold to Tunacor Fisheries early this year.
In her judgement delivered on 24 June, arbitrator Maxine Krohne ordered ArcticNam to pay 18 fishermen who were employed as crewmen each N$73 080, two fishermen who were employed as deckhands N$79 164 each, the vessel’s former motorman N$157 500 and two carpenters N$97 380 each. According to Krohne, the payments are based on their monthly salaries multiplied by 12 months. “The applicants sought an award including fish commission and housing allowance, unfortunately an arbitrator cannot award an allowance or commission not worked for but can only award reinstatement and or loss of income,” she explained in her settlement.
Krohne further stipulated in her ruling the payment must be made on or before 30 July 2021. ArcticNam chairperson Virgilio De Sousa yesterday told New Era that they are aware of the judgement and are in full support of their former employees.
He added that they currently find themselves in a predicament where they are trying to hold their Icelandic partners accountable for discrepancies as well as in the way they handled the company’s finances.
“The company is dormant as we speak. They try to liquidate it in 2019, but we were against the liquation and wanted to establish a forensic audit. They were bleeding us dry and it turns out that they were involved in the Fishrot scandal,” De Sousa said yesterday.
He added that they are waiting for their litigation outcome against their Icelandic partners before considering legal action. “At this stage, the company does not also have any assets to dispose of to generate money, but we will meet as shareholders and the board this week to see how we can solve the matter as the board is not also liable to settle the payments,” he said.
Meanwhile, unionist Phillip Munenguni, who represented the fishermen in his personal capacity, yesterday said that they would seek relief from the High Court if the ruling by the labour court is not met by the end of this month.
“The workers suffered too long and I will make sure that they get every cent they deserve as stipulated by the ruling,” he said yesterday.