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THE Namibian Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu) is accusing Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources officials of being captured by Spanish nationals of the Pescanova Group of companies.
Pescanova is the mother company of the NovaNam fish-processing factory at Lüderitz.
Fisheries and marine resource minister Derek Klazen this week denied the allegations levelled against the ministry that they were captured and turning a blind eye to the plight of the workers.
Nasawu Lüderitz branch organiser Peter Shiyandja says ministry officials are turning a blind eye to the poor working conditions of workers, while NovaNam and Pescanova are sponsoring them with trips overseas and invites to other factories.
Shiyandja said this on Wednesday during negotiations with NovaNam's management after workers downed tools on Tuesday over a salary increment dispute.
The workers are demanding an increase of N$2 per hour, or at least N$1,50.
The company has offered them an increase of 60 cents per hour.
NovaNam workers are said to be the lowest paid in the fishing sector at N$20,11 per hour.
“Recently NovaNam invited the minister and officials to visit their factories in Spain, but they are turning a blind eye to workers' conditions here at Lüderitz.
“This company even receives more quota from the government for operating from Lüderitz, compared to other fishing companies, yet they are treating workers poorly,” Shiyandja said.
He said NovaNam receives 14 000 tonnes of hake per year, while companies such as Marco Fishing and Seaflower reportedly receive 3 000 tonnes.
These quotas could, however, not be confirmed by the executive director of fisheries and marine resources, Anelly Haifene.
Seaflower Whitefish Corporation employees receive about N$24 per hour, with a monthly housing benefit of N$500, while NovaNam workers are receiving N$20,11 per hour, and N$315 for housing per month, Shiyandja said, as Nasawu is also their bargaining agent.
Seaflower reportedly has about 100 temporary workers out of a staff complement of 700.
The chief executive officer of Seaflower, Alex !Gawanab, could not confirm or deny these figures.
“We do not want to be played off by what other companies are doing. Salaries by nature are confidential as well,” !Gawanab says.
“We know the government is relying on NovaNam to create jobs at Lüderitz and to keep jobs. Therefore, these workers cannot even strike. They must hear it will affect the economy of Luderitz, and so the whole town is captured by this company,” Shiyandja said.
Klazen said since ministry officials were already in Portugal for the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference in April, and they decided to visit Spanish fishing factories as there were rumours that Pescanova was selling Namibian fish at a very high price overseas.
This happens while the country is earning very little from fish exports.
“We are not turning a blind eye to the working conditions of workers. And we are definitely not captured by Novanam.
“And it was in our interest to visit those fish factories to ascertain for ourselves what is happening to our fish in Spain, because it is our resource to create sustainable livelihoods,” said Klazen.
He referred The Namibian to Haifene, who said that the European trip had been fully paid by the government.
Haifene added that Novanam received 1 2 321,34 tonnes for the 2020/21 financial year and 12 500 tonnes for 2021/22 financial year.
Marco Fishing received 1 467,57 tonnes and 1 500 tonnes for the same financial years and Sea flower Whitefish Corporation (Fishcor) received 5 000 tonnes.
NovaNam chief executive officer Edwin Kamatoto this week disputed that NovaNam employees are the lowest paid in the industry, and said fewer than 1 000 workers are employed on a casual basis.
“Our employees receive a market-related salary, therefore they are not the lowest paid in the industry, or at Lüderitz, and the employees on a casual basis could be just above 500, but I must verify that number,” he said.