NUNW chides MPs over fishrot

By Jade McClune

THE National Union of Namibian Workers has lashed out at politicians who hold shares in companies with fishing rights that consistently violate the rights of workers. The NUNW also called for quick action by government and the management of the embattled Icelandic firm, Samherji, to ensure fair payment of workers before the fraud-stained company leaves Namibia.

Railing against the jobs massacre seen in recent years, the union federation noted that Ärctic-Nam (a subsidiary of Samherji) also retrenched its permanent workers in 2018 while the “profit was enjoyed by few foreigners and a few corrupt Namibians. Employees were not paid their fair exit package, as per the labour law. They lost their properties and their living conditions became unbearable.”

The NUNW said, “We have observed with great dismay that the shareholders of these companies are our lawmakers who are careless towards their own people.”

At a press briefing in Walvis Bay on Wednesday, NUNW vice president Phillip Munenguni in no uncertain terms said the leadership of the federation was deeply unhappy about “the unbearable conditions” of workers in the fishing, mining and other sectors. He said many employers do not respect the rights of workers and were simply not adhering to the law.

“Many companies in the fishing industry do not align their contracts to the stipulations of the Labour Act and other relevant regulations approved by the Cabinet. NUNW has observed that many companies are using ‘trip contract’ … to exploit the workers by using temporary workers who do not enjoy social protection at all. The employees are subjected to poor working conditions as they do not enjoy benefits, such as leave days, pension, medical aid, housing allowances, etc.”

He said, “This type of slavery infringes on the conditions of employment. The employers are exploiting employees under the guise that the companies have made losses, which result in the retrenchment of workers. These companies employ new intakes after retrenching those workers who have been working for a few years.”

The NUNW said politicians who hold shares in fishing firms must start cleaning up “the mess” before it is too late. “We are therefore calling on our members to reject these unfair labour practices and exploitation. The unions have observed this unfair labour practices at big companies…”

Munenguni said workers experience low wages and unfair labour practices that make life unbearable “as they cannot afford to sustain their families. These companies have made huge profits from fishing quotas over the past years and our people have been suffering.” He said some of the affected “are those [dismissed fishermen] at the stadium, camping for many years without any one giving them a hand.”