Farewell to Henk de Beer, the fisherman’s friend

Henk de Beer, Secretary of the South African Fishing Industry Employers Organisation (SAFIEO) and a long-standing advocate for the rights of sea-going workers in the deep sea trawling industry, has passed away in Cape Town aged 68.

A marine engineer by training, Henk’s career in fishing spanned several decades. He joined I&J in 1982 as a Training Manager and he made a point of going to sea and getting to know the skippers and crew on I&J trawlers. In this way he developed a deep and abiding respect for fishermen.

After his appointment as Human Resources Manager at I&J, Henk invested considerable time and energy in improving the working conditions of seagoing workers. His breakthrough came in 2001 with the establishment of a Bargaining Council for the South African fishing industry. This was followed in 2002 by the negotiation of a Collective Agreement which sets out basic conditions of employment for workers in the deep-sea and inshore trawl fisheries. Although Henk worked with his counterparts at other fishing companies to register the Bargaining Council with the Department of Labour, it would be true to say that it was he who provided the energy and passion to see the project through. His efforts were rewarded. Today seagoing workers in the deep sea and inshore trawl fisheries are protected by a unique labour relations framework that brings workers and employers together every year to negotiate around salaries and other benefits.

Henk was also active in the international arena, representing SAFIEO at the International Labour Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

In 2008, Henk reluctantly retired from I&J because of ill health. However, he retained his position as Chairman of the Bargaining Council, offering his skills to the fishing industry on a voluntary basis. Latterly he was appointed Secretary of SAFIEO.

Henk truly was a friend to South African fishermen. His knowledge and experience in human resources management and labour relations − which he gave freely to the trawling industry after his retirement from I&J − was invaluable and will be sorely missed.

The South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association expresses its heart felt condolences to Henk’s wife, Lynette, and the family.