THE fishing industry at Lüderitz in the //Kharas region has been on the decline over the past five to 10 years because fishing companies are transferring their quotas to Walvis Bay, due to the high cost of doing business in the town and its remoteness.
The economy of Lüderitz is primarily supported by the fishing industry, which creates employment opportunities that sustain the livelihoods of the people and the business sector. Industries, such as mining and tourism, are secondary in supporting the town.
The fishing industry remains relevant due to value addition to its products that create jobs for the people.
Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) general secretary Jacob Penda says the industry faces peculiar challenges with the conditions of employment of workers, unstable work environments and implementing the Labour Act No.11 of 2007.
Penda says Labour Act No.11 of 2007 is quiet on multiple issues concerning workers' rights, employee conditions and limitations towards employers and it is mostly in favour of employers, as there are many clauses which give options to employers to circumvent the law and disadvantage workers.
"The labour act is not an instructing or directing document towards both parties, which leaves issues arising during negotiations for improved conditions of employment open to interpretation. Then the companies always come with their lawyers and win these arguments," says Penda.
He wonders why if government approves bus and taxi rates periodically, the labour act does not make provision for employers to adjust transport and housing allowances.
"When we negotiate, we start at N$3 000 for rent and the best you can get is N$500, while we all know that a room to rent in Namibia starts at N$800," says Penda.
According to Penda, there are also discrepancies between salaries of fishing workers at Lüderitz and at Walvis Bay. For instance, a factory worker at Walvis Bay earns between N$18 and N$20 per hour, while at Lüderitz they earn between N$14 and N$16. Noting the strike at Marco Fishing from November last year to February this year, Penda says Nafau pushed for N$18 per hour as well as housing and transport allowances.
Another challenge facing Lüderitz is the transfer of fishing quotas, Penda says. Because the cost of doing business at Walvis Bay is N$3 less than at Lüderitz, many companies apply for fishing quotas from Lüderitz but once they get the quota, they move the processing of the quota to Walvis Bay. This leaves people at Lüderitz unemployed, as these job opportunities are transferred to Walvis Bay.
!Nami-#Nus constituency regional councillor Suzan Ndjaleka concurs with Penda, adding that key players, such as NovaNam, who used to operate up to eight vessels, now only operate about four vessels.
The regional councillor says this has resulted in a 50% reduction in the workforce and even seasonal workers go for months without an income as the opportunities are diminished.
"The industry has suffered major blows in the past five years due to the uncertain quota allocations preventing the industry from planning and creating stable jobs. Newcomers have signed joint ventures or sold their quota to Walvis Bay companies, leading to a decline in the fishing industry at Lüderitz," says Ndjaleka.