July 17 The new minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says hes ready to clean up the mess left by his predecessor. Senzeni Zokwana says his first job is to restore the fishing industrys loss of confidence in his department.
CAPE TOWN - Workers at the Hout Bay fishmeal factory have scored a victory in the fight to keep their jobs after the South Africa Oceana Group has announced that the factory would remain operational.
For the workers, Tuesday’s agreement to keep the factory going was a victory because it meant that 98 jobs had been saved.
The announcement to keep the factory open came after Oceana concluded a lengthy Section 189 consultation with workers and their representatives.
“Oceana will now align its Hout Bay operations to other fishing operations within Oceana Group and provide guaranteed work for two days for every week of the year, irrespective of the availability of fish,” said Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel.
Kuttel expressed relief this conclusion, stating that Hout Bay has been Oceana’s traditional home for 65 years.
“Oceana is in the business of opening new facilities, expanding operations locally and aboard, and creating new opportunities for employment – not closing plants down,” said Kuttel.
The factory would remain in full operation, with staff keeping their jobs and receiving wages “in line with their historic rates for days which they have worked during production,” said Kuttel adding that production days would increase from 60 to 120 to maximise turnover.
Kuttel said: “No other fishing company provides guaranteed work irrespective of the availability of fish.”
He said he hoped this best practice approach would be adopted by other fishing companies in the near future.
The Western Cape South African Communist Party (SACP) welcomed Oceana’s decision to continue factory operations. The party commended the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) “for defending the rights of the fishmeal factory workers.”
The party also commended communities in Hout Bay for fighting for the workers’ jobs.
Oceana first mooted the possibility of the factory closing down in August.
The reason, Kuttel said, was because of a series of complaints about foul odours emanating from the premises during certain weather conditions, which were “associated with fishmeal and fish oil production.”
Workers were given the option of relocating to St Helena, on the same employment terms and conditions, but this was not sustainable. The proposed closure was met with fierce resistance.
In September the Hout Bay Civic Association handed the group a petition with 1,200 signatures protesting against the closure as it would have a negative effect on jobs in the community, and on the investmemts the group had made in the community.
Recalling Oceana’s history and relationship with Hout Bay, Kuttel said Oceana set up shop in the area when the town “was just a small fishing village without electricity”.
“We consider ourselves an important part of Hout Bay’s heritage and future.”