7 February 2013

Namibia: Etale Retrenches 704 Workers

ABOUT 704 workers are to lose their jobs at the Etale fishing company.

The Namibian understands that the company is yet to formally notify the union of retrenchments and ask for a meeting to negotiate the way forward.

The president of the Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu), Paulus Hango, confirmed yesterday that the company had told the union of its plans.

The Etale board said on Monday that is closing its fish factory for renovation.

Managing director Wilhencia Uiras yesterday said in a statement that despite various efforts, the company continued to suffer losses and operational challenges.

The company accumulated audited losses of N$388 million, with accumulated unaudited losses as at 30 April 2012 of N$40,2 million, a source close to the board informed The Namibian. At the end of last year unaudited losses ballooned to N$66,8 million.

Earlier this year, the company sent the bulk of its seasonal and permanent workers home without any explanation.

The union raised concern, saying about 700 workers were not sure where they stood in terms of their jobs and pensions.

Uiras said yesterday that the company had been going through tough times in the past two years.

"The company's ageing capital equipment; especially the fish processing installations, are in need of extensive replacement/refurbishment.

"The situation has now been exacerbated by the total breakdown of the factory's central refrigeration plant without which the processing and storing of catch has become impossible and all such operations have thus now come to a standstill."

Negative reports about Etale started last year when its then managing director and majority shareholder Sylvanus 'Bobboh' Kathindi was investigated by other shareholders over the handling of the company's affairs.

Etale is a consortium of black empowerment companies Etale Trust, Ehanga, Ompagona and Ozohi.

Etale Trust, owned by the Kefuta Group, is the majority shareholder with a 55% stake, while Ehanga, Ompagona and Ozohi own the remaining 45%.

Kefuta Group, which is owned by Sadike Nepela, bought the shares in May 2012 from Etale Endowment Trust, which was owned by Kathindi, the former MD of Etale.

"The company had to endure low catches and relatively weak international prices at times, along with the initial windfalls from a weakening exchange rate changing course and became a major loss-making factor when it strengthened."

Uiras said another turnaround strategy was to appoint her as the MD.

"Kefuta inherited a malfunctioning operation and at the same time injected over N$20 million with a view to arrest the worsening financial situation and turn around the company," she said.

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