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Striking fishermen thrown lifeline

2021-05-20  Staff Reporter

Striking fishermen thrown lifeline
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A fishing company has agreed to take in all 290 fishermen who were left at the Ongulumbashe open field at Kuisebmond following a wildcat strike that started in 2015.  

Erongo regional governor Neville Andre announced this to the fishermen yesterday. The announcement is a follow-up of last year’s Cabinet directive for quotas to be awarded to fishing companies to absorb the fishermen.

 Priority in this regard is given to Namsov’s retrenched workers,  followed by those who went on strike, and then any other unemployed fishermen. The governor said he has been in talks with the  Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union since the beginning of the year, which has now yielded some results. “We are engaging one of the fishing companies who already agreed to take you all up. First they wanted to take the 200, but then after further engagements, they agreed to take all of you,” explained Andre. Government officials from the labour ministry, the company that has agreed to employ the fishermen and unions representing the workers will meet with the governor to discuss the progress of the fishermen’s list verification as well as to finalise an agreement. 

New Era understands that the company absorbing the striking workers has been granted a hake quota of over 2 000 metric tonnes. Close to 700 Namsov fishermen were retrenched as a result of a quota cut in 2018. Fishermen from Merlus Fishing at Walvis Bay and Lüderitz went on a strike in 2015, demanding better wages and overtime payments to match their long working hours. 

Gabriel Matheus, who was part of the striking fishermen, told New Era that this news meant that he no longer had to run from landlords.  “I have been living illegally in ghettos with other people because I could no longer afford to pay the rent. This news means I can finally sleep peacefully,” he beamed.   

The group’s representative Julius Hamunyela said the announcement by the government is a sign that they are not forgotten. “The fact that the governor himself came to tell us is assurance that we still matter, and our leaders have not forgotten us,” he said. The fishermen have
vowed their demands for overtime and night allowances will be part of the negotiation with the company that will absorb them.    

Since last year, over 800 of the fishermen were employed by fishing companies, including Tunacor fishing and Cavema fishing. Andre added that his office will further investigate a fishing right that was given to a company registered by the fishermen’s leaders to address their plight
of the fishermen. 

“I was told that this company was formed, and rights and quotas were also awarded to this company. But it is unfortunate for me to learn that there has been no change to the livelihoods of the fishermen,” said Andre. Many fishermen have since passed on, while others went on retirement during the five years and eight months’ period at the open field. 

2021-05-20  Staff Reporter

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