24 January 2013

Namibia: Etale Fishing Workers Face Uncertainty

ETALE Fishing Company in Walvis Bay has allegedly sent the bulk of its seasonal and permanent workers home without an explanation, as talk of financial difficulties surfaces once again.

The Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu) said it had a meeting with the company's management this week and was told that the company was facing financial problems and would only be able to provide workers with feedback in February.

"The situation at Etale is critical and we have serious concerns about what is going to happen to the workers. The company management informed us that it is currently facing difficulties and will have a meeting with its shareholders on February 4. The outcome will be communicated to both us and the workers after February 4," said Nasawu general secretary Erkki Shitana.

Shitana said the union, which has a recognition agreement with the fishing company on behalf of the workers, is waiting to see whether the situation at the company normalises.

"The concern by the 700-plus workers is that they want to be informed about where they stand in terms of their jobs and pensions," said Shitana.

The Namibian could not get comment from Etale yesterday.

Shitana said the financial situation of the company dates back to the time of previous managing director, Bobboh Kathindi, who last year was forced out of his position amidst accusations of irregularities that have cost his companies millions of dollars.

It was reported in late 2011 that Etale Fishing owed the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources N$20 million for quota levies.

Kathindi resigned as managing director of Etale Fishing Company shortly after an internal probe by the shareholders unearthed several irregularities suggesting he was not working fully in the interest of the owners.

One investigation established that he benefited personally and "inappropriately" through a deal between Etale Fishing Company and Namsov. Etale, despite its public complaints that it was struggling because it had no fishing quotas, reportedly gave Namsov the right to catch fish on its behalf.

In terms of the Namsov-Etale agreement, Namsov got 67 percent of the revenue while Etale received the remaining 33 percent. The revenue sharing was calculated after all costs were deducted. This irked other shareholders and directors who believed Kathindi had sold Etale short.

Some of the shareholders also believed Kathindi's decision to outsource Etale fishing quotas might have been the main reason shareholders were unable to pay levies to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource for years.

Etale, a consortium of black empowerment companies Etale Trust, Ehanga, Ompagona and Ozohi, is still reeling from penalties imposed by the government for its failure to pay levies and seems to have been punished when new fishing rights were awarded in 2011.

It was found that the Namsov-Etale joint venture "has resulted in a net outflow of millions of Namibian dollars that could have accrued to Etale had the agreement not been entered into".

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