WALVIS BAY – Seaflower Pelagic Processing (SPP) employees and a union representing their interests have made a dramatic U-turn against the company and are calling on government to revoke the quota that was allocated to them earlier this year to save 655 jobs at Walvis Bay.
About 150 workers protested yesterday in front of the SPP premises. SPP is currently embroiled in a messy divorce with its corruption-tainted partner and state-owned National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor). The workers are accusing the company of using a no work, no pay type of agreement despite quotas being given to secure their jobs.
Speaking on behalf of his fellow employees, Mathew Simasiku said since they started with the company on 28 January 2019, they had the “slavery contract” of no work, no pay, saying they refused to go back on the same basis.
“Earlier this year, we know the company received 16 000 metric tons for operations that were depleted by the end of May 2020. The company in June this year received a further 5 000 metric tons, which we did not work for and we have no idea where it is – and SPP management is silent about it,” Simasiku claimed.
He added that an additional 4 000 metric tons were also given to SPP to save the jobs of the employees.
“We know that this quota was allocated through Fishcor to Seaflower in August 2020; this quota came with conditions that it may not be sold but rather to sustain jobs. When this quota was granted, we, the shop steward and union representative, sat with the management to renegotiate the conditions of employment, but the company declined and stood on their slavery terms and condition of employment of no work, no pay,” Simasiku said during the protest.
He added the company then threatened to recruit other employees if they fail to comply with the conditions set by SPP.
“We, the employees, declined to sign such terms and conditions of employment, as it is slavery in our times in Namibia. But it is painful to see that SPP decided to lay off their ex-employees and are busy recruiting new employees under the same exploitation terms and conditions we were employed with,” he said.
According to Simasiku, they are disappointed and feel misused by the company to get quotas to benefit themselves, while they have been laid off without decent pay.
Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) regional branch coordinator Johannes Shayuka in an interview said they have been very supportive of Seaflower but are disappointed by the way they want to employ their workers on a no work, no pay basis.
“We will not allow Seaflower to continue this way. It is better that Fishcor revoke the quota and give it to companies that can employ workers on a permanent basis, as we cannot allow the employees to be offered trip contracts based on the tonnage of the vessel,” Shayuka said.
He added the company should at least give an incentive, as it is impossible for workers to live on a mere N$200.
“I am very disappointed they told us that if the workers do not go back to work, they will employ others. This is despite their earlier promise that they will share whatever they get among all employees. In fact, they were given the quota to sustain jobs – now they are violating that same condition; thus, the quota should be revoked,” he said.
Managing director of SPP Adolf Burger yesterday told New Era it is unfortunate the latest events are happening while they are battling to keep doors open and to re-employ everyone.
“Nobody is safe here, including management. All that 5 000 and 4 000 tons they are referring to has been and will be caught. It is way too little to keep us going,” he said.
“We kept on informing workers via the union about the ongoing discussions; hence, this protest is a surprise to us. We also know not all employees were present and it is certainly not everyone’s view.”