Klazen and Nujoma confront the fishermen: the truth, by itself.

WALVIS BAY – Fisheries Minister Derek Klazen and Labor Minister Utoni Nujoma finally addressed concerns and complaints raised by fishermen about the Government Employment Restructuring Program (GERP) yesterday.

Despite numerous complaints from fishermen, the two ministers in the past only met their committee members, but now decided to confront the problem head-on.

Klazen said this is one of many meetings being held to ensure smoother operations and strong working relationships.

Holding a thick blue folder in the air as he addressed the fishermen, he stated: “This is your request that arrived at our offices.”

He noted that it is important to clarify the increasingly misleading statements that falsely assure all former fishermen of employment at sea. “It is simply not possible to re-employ all former fishermen on board fishing vessels because their previous jobs on board fishing vessels have been taken over by other Namibians, following their separation from their previous employers. This is partly the reason why most employees under the GERP do not have physical work now and continue to receive a monthly salary while away from the premises of their respective employers,” he added.

A 2020 Cabinet decision ordered the two ministries to ensure full-time employment for former Namsov employees and those who lost their jobs during the 2015 illegal strike.

This is how the GERP was created, through which 550 fishermen were employed in the horse mackerel subsector and 1,933 in the hake subsector.

After the program, the fishermen resigned and submitted petitions to the two ministries about employment conditions, and many insisted on working on fishing boats, since they are fishermen.

However, Klazen said last month that the GERP program is not sustainable in the long term, given that fisheries resources, particularly hake, are declining.

He added that the program has faced several challenges, some of which were genuine, while others appear superfluous and unduly influenced by political opportunism, personal gratification, conflicts and other dubious interests.

“As we meet today, I would like to emphasize that the government, through the two ministries, is not an adversary, but a reliable partner and initiator of this entire process. I would also like to emphasize that this program was established to provide dignity and livelihood to the affected former fishermen. The intention in creating this program was not to undermine or oppose the people whose livelihood is our commitment,” the politician emphasized.

healthy relationships

With Namibia’s Constitution in hand, Nujoma told the fishermen that they have been trying to resolve the complex disagreements that exist between employers and employees.

“Today we have the opportunity to listen and have constructive engagement, and hear what solutions they have. Maybe they can come up with some solutions because our interest is to protect the rights of workers, to ensure that, as Article 95 of our Constitution says, it speaks of promoting the well-being of the people.

It also says that we must protect the interests of workers and ensure that they receive decent wages and living conditions. That is what our Constitution establishes. Therefore, when there are problems, it is our duty to guide workers and employers to try to find an amicable solution,” he stated.

At the same time, he reminded fishermen that Namibia’s fish stocks are declining and that they should take this into account when discussing issues related to their employment.

Nujoma said the government was extremely concerned when 800 workers were laid off and decided it could not allow Namibians to suffer.

“That is why the Minister was tasked through the reparation program to ensure that those who were dismissed through the illegal strike could at least have a job.

We would like to hear from you today, because we have received the requests. We want to hear from you what solutions you propose because if we continue with the discontent between us and the lack of consultation it will not help us,” he reiterated.

Talks between the parties then took place behind closed doors.

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