Samherji throws lifeline to Geysir crew

28 February 2020 | Labour

Workers currently on Samherji's Geysir vessel, which is fishing in Mauritania, will keep their jobs, while the rest of the crew who were left in Namibia and the crew of the Saga - a total of 210 fishermen - will lose their jobs next month.

Those crew members who remain on the Geysir have issued a statement corroborating Samherji's position on the matter. The Icelandic company is embroiled in the Fishrot saga in which bribes were allegedly paid to Namibian politicians and officials to secure fishing quotas.

“We have signed a three-month contract and agreed to salaries we believe are fair and satisfactory. We are prepared to extend our current contracts, if necessary. We are on board voluntarily; we are treated well and the crew is in good spirits. We have access to our families in Namibia,” the Geysir workers said their statement.

In a previous article, National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) vice-president Phillip Munenguni said they were trying to make contact with the Geysir workers.

The workers, however, said no one from the NUNW or the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) has tried to contact them or their families since their current fishing expedition began.

Samherji spokesperson Bjørn Richard Johansen said the first step in the retrenchment process for the Geysir crew members, who were not hired for the Mauritania trip, as well as the Saga vessel crew, took place on Monday.

“All crew members will be offered the opportunity to negotiate retrenchment packages, which will honour their rights according to the Namibian Labour Act.”

He also said the crew members of the Heinaste, who were retrenched in 2018, received payments according to a resolution passed unanimously by the board of directors of Arcticnam Fishing on 3 December 2018.

However, Munenguni is adamant that retrenchment packages were not negotiated.

“These employees lost their homes and their cars. They were not given first priority when the vessel was chartered to Saga Seafood. They recruited casuals whom they exploited for the whole of 2019 and these casuals worked without any contract.”

In an agreement signed by the two unions and the workers earlier this month, it was requested that Samherji's top management be present at the meeting held on Monday. However, no one pitched.

Björgólfur Jóhannsson, interim CEO of Samherji, said it is normal for companies to have local representatives in these types of situations, which is what Samherji and the affiliated companies did.

Leandrea Louw

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