Union to oppose Hout Bay fishing factory closure

Cape Town – The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) will embark on a protest march in Cape Town on September 10 to voice their opposition against the planned closure of Oceana’s [JSE:OCE] fish-meal factory in Hout Bay.

Fawu national fishing sector organiser Zolani Mbanjwa told Fin24 on Friday that during the march, they would hand over a memorandum to City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel.

Oceana announced the possible closure of the factory this month, saying it could not sustain its operation amid complaints that the factory is a smelly hindrance to residents in the community.

The closure would affect 98 employees in Hout Bay, who would either lose their jobs or have to move to its St Helena Bay facility or anywhere else in the group where positions may be available.

“The issue of the closure of Oceana’s fish-meal factory is a no go area for us as a union,” said Mbanjwa. “We strongly believe it must stay in Hout Bay and operate there.”

Fawu will tell the city and Oceana that Hout Bay workers support the increase in fishing days from 60 production days per annum to its historical 120 to 180 days per annum, if it means it will remain in operation.

Oceana has been in Hout Bay for 65 years

Oceana said in a statement that it is concerned that they will receive an increase in complaints about the smell coming from its factory if they increased those production days.

“The company now finds itself in the position where it either has to ignore the growing levels of discontent from certain sections of the community and revert to the pre-2012 production levels to become financially viable again, or relocate the plant’s processing capacity,” it explained.

Oceana is currently consulting with employees before making a final decision, it said.

Oceana said the decision to shut office was not taken easily, as it has contributed to the well-being of Hout Bay for over 65 years.

“The Oceana Foundation has channelled R2.4m into corporate social investment projects in Hout Bay over the past three years,” the company said.

It’s financial and not about the smell, says group

The issue around Oceana’s bad smell started when Hout Bay resident Kiara Worth formed Fresh Air for Hout Bay (FAHB) with other community members to investigate why Oceana’s factory was creating such a bad smell.

“FAHB has never supported the idea of the factory closing, but rather that the odour be eliminated, believing it negatively impacts life in the community and does not contribute to creating a positive environment for anyone,” the group said in a statement on its website.

“It is unlikely that the increasing number of complaints from the community is the predominant factor for the proposed factory closure. More likely is that this is a financial decision on the part of Oceana, aiming to consolidate its operations to improve economic efficiencies and viability,” says the FAHB.  

Oceana said it had invested R50m in odour abatement over the last 15 years and employs the latest technology in odour abatement that is globally available. It said it has also consulted with a number of leading international experts, so believes there simply is nothing more it can do. 

Mbanjwa said the union would meet with Oceana at a CCMA meeting on August 31, where it would attempt to get a more accurate reason for why it wants to close the operation.

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