Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory to remain operational

  |   Fishing, News

Dear Stakeholder

We are happy to announce that the Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory will remain open with a full staff complement. This announcement follows the successful conclusion, today of the consultation process with our staff and their representatives. Hout Bay is the traditional home of Oceana; we have been in operation here for the last 65 years when the town was just a small fishing village without electricity and we consider ourselves an important part of Hout Bay’s heritage and future.

The Section 189 process, which was facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), followed Oceana’s announcement on August 14 that the Company was giving serious consideration to the closure of its operations at the Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory, and proposed relocation of production capacity and all staff to their St Helena Bay operations or, where applicable, other subsidiaries in and around Cape Town.

It must be noted that the Hout Bay Staff were given the option to relocate to St Helena Bay on the same terms and conditions but this was not an option favoured by our staff or the wider Hout Bay community. Alternative options were therefore reviewed and debated during the consultation process to find economically viable and long term sustainable solution.

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 fish availability. Staff will continue to be paid in line with their historic rates for days that they have worked during production which will now revert, pending fish availability, to minimum of 120 days in the year as opposed to the current 60 day period. This increases the incentive to source, harvest and land fish for the Hout Bay operations. It must be noted that no other fishing company provides guaranteed work irrespective of fish availability and we hope that this approach, as adopted by Oceana, becomes an industrial norm in the near future.

After tabling the proposed closure in August, we were overwhelmed with community support calling for our continued presence in Hout Bay. In addition to this support, Oceana received a 1,200-strong petition on September 20 from the Hout Bay Civic Association, firmly rejecting the proposed closure on the grounds of the negative effect it would have had on the communities who rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood, and the levels of social investment contributed to neighbouring communities by the company.

We would like to take this opportunity to commend the affected Hout Bay staff and their representatives for the professional manner in which this sensitive process was handled. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance and support as received by CCMA, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the City of Cape Town (CoCT) as well as other key Governmental Officials and Hout Bay Community Stakeholders for their willingness to explore the various factors that led to the proposed closure, and their efforts to find workable solutions that served the best interests of the wider Hout Bay community.

Over the past three years, Oceana reduced plant production to less than 40% of normal annual production levels to try and reduce the impact on vocal communities complaining about the odour of the plant on certain production days. Critically, Oceana did not reduce the factory’s workforce during this de-escalation of activity and paid their staff for the entire year although they worked for only 60 days of the year. In order to become financially viable and protect the job security of its staff in Hout Bay, Oceana will now revert to pre-2012 production levels and run production between 120-180 days per year, which is in accordance with Oceana’s staffing capacity and original permit allowance. Staff at the factory will now be able to work according to the correct capacity.

The proposed closure stemmed from rising levels of complaints directed at Oceana from a minority activist community group about unpleasant odours during specific weather conditions, which are associated with fishmeal and fish oil production. The past two months have been challenging, but after a comprehensive period of consultation, the process was found to be very useful in illustrating that the vast majority of complaints came from a community minority. The process clearly demonstrated the need for all to be more sensitive to Hout Bay’s historic fishing industry and the pressing socio-economic needs of the wider community.

Being mindful of our reputation as a responsible and caring company, we have taken all reasonable steps to minimise the impact on the local residents of Hout Bay and invested nearly R50 million over the last 15 years in the most advanced odour abatement technology. There is no technology we know of worldwide that is better than what we have currently in place, but as part of our continuous improvement systems, we endeavor to continue investigating technology as it develops.

Oceana is in the business of opening new facilities, expanding operations locally and aboard, and creating new opportunities for employment and not closing plants down. We have a deep sense of relief knowing that this plant will remain operational and the jobs of our workers will be protected in their own communities.

With Kind regards

Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory Management