THE confiscation of the Heinaste by Namibian law enforcement agencies and the departure of the Saga and the Geysir from Namibian waters at the beginning of February left 210 fishermen without the prospect of further income from the fishing company they worked for.
In this regard Saga Seafood the company that controlled the three super trawlers while they were catching fish in Namibian waters started issuing the fishermen notices of retrenchment on Wednesday. The company had hopes that it might be awarded new fishing quotas or that the boats could be chartered to catch fish on behalf of other fishing companies situated in Walvis Bay but the quotas did not realise and two of the vessels left Namibian shores.
When the Saga and the Geysir left the Port of Walvis Bay at the beginning of February Saga Seafood agreed to pay the fishermen two weeks’ wages but also indicated that they might be retrenched because there was no work for the fishing vessels. The Saga left for repairs in Las Palmas and the Geysir left for the fishing grounds of Mauritania with a specially selected Namibian crew of 31 on board.
The fishermen left behind signed fixed term contracts with Saga Seafood in which they agreed that they would only be paid for the work they have done while at sea.
According to Jacky Thiardt the manager of Saga Seafood, which is company partly owned by the Icelandic seafood and fisheries company at the centre of the Fishrot corruption scandal, Samherji, a meeting was held with the union representatives of the fishermen earlier this week where the company’s intent to retrench the seagoing employees was made known.
“We asked that the men come to the office to pick up their notices and that the process of negotiation will commence from there. In the notice Saga Seafood made the men an offer in terms of the Namibian Labour Act and we allowed the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union to act on their behalf during the negotiations that will follow,” she said.
According to Thiardt Saga Seafood expects the men facing retrenchment to list claims on top of the offer which would then be negotiated with the union representing them.
Thiardt however made it clear that the fishing company is not closing its doors just yet.
“Although Samherji indicated that it will move out of Namibia at some stage Saga Seafood is still open. At the moment the shareholders, of which Samherji is one, are waiting to see how the fishing quotas will be allocated by the acting Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources on 21 March,” she said.
Godfriedt Auxab the representative of the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) said the retrenchment of the Saga Seafood employees could have been avoided if the fishing company still had quotas and if there was still work for the vessels.
“What we will definitely address with Saga Seafood and other fishing companies in the industry is the clauses of the fixed term contracts on which these fishermen were employed. It should not be allowed in the fishing industry,” Auxab said.
He said because of the contracts the fishermen have with the company NAFAU can only bargain for the best possible package on their behalf.