Fishrot claims more jobs

With Samherji's operating company Saga Seafood ceasing operations in Namibia at the end of March, over 200 workers will soon be retrenched.

26 February 2020 | Crime

Around 210 employees of the MV Saga and MV Geysir vessels will be retrenched next month.

These employees were left stranded earlier this month after both vessels left Namibian waters just days apart. The owner Samherji, which is embroiled in the Fishrot bribery saga, said the Saga left for repairs in Spain, while the Geysir left to fish in Mauritania.

During a meeting on Monday between the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) and Saga Seafood, it was confirmed that these workers will be retrenched.

NUNW vice-president Phillip Munenguni said the workers will receive their notice letters today.

“The company has not secured any quotas, nor have they signed any catch agreements with other Namibian companies. Saga Seafood will cease operations in Namibia on 31 March.”

He said they will draft proposals as per the Labour Act for employees to receive retrenchment packages. “Tomorrow we will officially meet with the employees about their retrenchment packages and discuss how it should be paid according to our law.”

Munenguni said 32 employees left with the Geysir for Mauritania, however, it is unclear what will happen with these employees. “We wanted to know from the Geysir management if these workers will also be retrenched. We were told that it depends on their employment contracts. At the moment, we have no idea what will happen. We are trying to make contact with them. We are afraid that the Icelanders will retrench them there where they are. We do not know where they are or what's happening to them, but we are trying our best to locate them.”

In another meeting, the two unions met with ArticNam – a joint venture between Namibian shareholders and Samherji – which centred around the retrenched employees of the Heinaste vessel.

The Heinaste is currently in the possession of Namibian authorities after it was seized for a second time. The first seizure was in December 2019 when it was caught fishing illegally in Namibian waters. The captain, Angrimur Brynjolfsson (67), pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of N$950 000 earlier this month. The Walvis Bay magistrate's court also ordered the vessel to be returned to its owners with all its documents.

The second seizure was carried out under the premise of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, due to the vessel being used in relation to Samherji's alleged bribery of Namibian officials to the tune of N$150 million.

Employees of the Heinaste were retrenched in 2019, but did not receive correct retrenchment packages in accordance with the labour law. “None of the Samherji representatives attended the meeting, except the representatives from the Namibian shareholders which included Epango Fishing and Synco Fishing. The idea was to figure out how it happened that the workers were not fully paid what was due to them although there were a number of proposals with regard to their exit packages. The Namibian representatives indicated that they were under the impression that the workers received what they were supposed to. They were also not informed on what was happening to the Heinaste and its crew.”

Munenguni said they've developed solutions to work together with the Namibian shareholders of ArticNam to approach the relevant authorities on the Heinaste. “We want to make sure that this vessel remains here for Namibians and is used to benefit our people.”

ArticNam indicated that they want their vessel back and would reinstate the retrenched workers.

Leandrea Louw

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