WALVIS BAY - Unionists representing unemployed seamen have welcomed government’s intervention to help secure them jobs within the fishing industry, but they are demanding the commitment to be put in writing.
Government on Wednesday announced it will negotiate with the fishing industry in an effort to secure work for fishermen who lost their jobs during the 2015 illegal strike, as well as those who were laid off after Namsov’s quota was slashed. Acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana, while addressing the fishing industry in Walvis Bay, made the announcement. Speaking on behalf of the unemployed workers, Mathew Lungameni praised government’s gesture but was quick to add that only a written commitment would put them and their families at ease. Lungameni indicated they briefly met with Kawana after the stakeholders meeting to discuss the re-employment issue.
“We will also have another meeting next week with the minister to discuss logistics, as we also have our own demands. Most importantly, we need government to look at the violations of the Labour Act within the fishing sector and make amendments so that the employment conditions change for all employed in the fishing sector; otherwise, our suffering for the past four years will be in vain,” Lungameni said. President of the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union Daniel Imbili said it is sad that all their previous cries with regards to irregularities and corruption in the fishing sector were not taken seriously, while Trade Union Congress of Namibia leader Paulus Hango pleaded with the acting minister to ensure there is wide consultation on issues pertaining to the fishing industry.
He added that a report on negotiations and challenges experienced in the industry would be compiled and sent to the minister to be used as a guiding tool when dealing with sector issues. Some of the fishermen maintained they want the working conditions scrutinised and improvements made in the best interest of all stakeholders. Seamen in Lüderitz and Walvis Bay went on an illegal strike in 2015 to protest against unfair labour practices in the fishing industry, which resulted in massive job losses. Some players in the industry have also attributed the job losses to the international fishing kickback scandal implicating former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and business people. Both ministers were forced to resign over the scandal. Esau, Shanghala and three of their co-accused allegedly received corrupt payments of at least N$103.6 million to allow Icelandic fishing company Samherji secure access to horse mackerel quotas in Namibia. According to media reports, Samherji’s CEO and biggest shareholder Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson authorised the bribe payments. Government has been blamed for doing nothing to rescue companies such as Etosha Fishing, United Fishing and Namsov, resulting in more than 4 000 job losses. The address by Kawana yesterday came just hours after Walvis Bay residents, including the disgruntled fishermen, marched against corruption in the fishing industry.
Eveline de Klerk
2019-12-13 07:57:21 | 9 months ago