SOME 290 striking fishermen at the Ongulumbashe field in Kuisebmond at Walvis Bay, who remain unemployed after five years and eight months, will soon finally return to work.
This is after the governor of the Erongo region, Neville Andre, informed them on Wednesday that he is currently negotiating with a fishing company to absorb all of them.
“We are engaging one of the fishing companies which agreed to take you all up. They initially wanted to take 200, but after further engagement they agreed to take all of you,” Andre said to the delight of the emotionally drained men.
Some 4 000 fishermen from Merlus Fishing’s Walvis Bay and Lüderitz operations went on strike in 2015 demanding overtime time and night allowances.
They have since then been meeting at the open field every day.
Their strike was later declared illegal and resulted in them losing their jobs. In 2018 the group was joined by Namsov fishermen who were retrenched due to slashed horse mackerel quotas.
The group grew bigger over the years as companies, such as Erongo Marine, had to retrench workers for the same reason.
This was worsened by the departure of Chinese fishing company Pacific Andes Group and Iceland’s Samherji.
Many of the men have since taken up employment elsewhere.
This left about 885 fishermen at the field, of which 645 were re-employed by Cavema Fishing.
Over 28 fishermen have since died, while more than 36 have retired and five are now living with disabilities.
The governor’s announcement yesterday is part of last year’s Cabinet directive for quotas to be awarded to fishing companies to re-employ the fishermen.
The re-employment process has been conducted in accordance with the directive, which prioritises the retrenched Namsov Fishing employees, followed by those who went on an illegal strike, after which the rest would follow.
“I sympathise with the condition the fishermen are in since they left their jobs ..,” Andre said.
The governor said he has been in talks with the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union since the beginning of the year, which are now yielding results.
The Namibian has been told that Hangana Seafood (Pty) Ltd, one of the leading employers in the hake industry has agreed to take the former fishermen in.
The company is to receive over 2 500 tonnes of hake in exchange for the fishermen’s employment.
The group’s spokesperson, Julius Hamunyela, yesterday said they have not deserted their reasons for striking.
“We have not abandoned our demands for overtime and night-time allowances, and they will form part of the wage package negotiations. That was the reason why we were at the open field for all those years,” Hamunyela said.