By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The industrial peace in the nation’s ports appears to be heading to the rocks as indications have emerged that the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, is planning to down tools and cripple ports activities nationwide over unresolved industrial issues.
Among the pending industrial issues include the refusal of the International Oil Companies, IOCs, to comply with Marine Notice 106 and extant Stevedoring regulations, refusal to pay aged seafarers monthly pensions in spite of court ruling, refusal to restore registered onboard ship gangway security and Tally men (pooling system), absence of Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA, in Shipping sub-sector and refusal to issue Seafarers identity documents, SID, to seafarers.
Recall that MWUN had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government and other concerned authorities effective Monday, March 6, to address the Union’s grievances, or face industrial unrest.
However, fillers from the Union indicate that none of the issues has been addressed and the leadership of MWUN is not taking the matter lightly.
An official of the Union told Vanguard in confidence: “Well, I can tell you that nothing has changed. Consequently, we are at the peak of mobilisation for industrial action. I can tell you that we are not going to give any further notice before we take action because these issues are not new. We have been on them for long. It is as if we are not being taken seriously by the government and other authorities concerned. One thing is clear; we will take action at any moment. This is all I can tell you.”
Recall that MWUN gave the notice to the Ministers of Transportation, Muazu Sambo and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Senator Chris Ngige when the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Joe Ajaero, paid a working visit to the National Secretariat of MWUN, Lagos.
The two weeks strike notice followed the directive by the NLC President after the President-General of MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, had presented the Union’s challenges before the NLC national leadership team.
While highlighting major challenges confronting the maritime workers, Adeyanju among others, said: “Terminal Operators by now should have renewed their concession agreement, but recently we heard the Minister of Transportation challenging Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, for not giving Shippers’ Council a chance to be part of the review.
“Multiple regulatory agencies are coming up, what is the fate of workers of NPA and other workers in the sector? The government should come out and tell us who is in charge of the terminal operators. Is it the Shippers’ Council, NPA or NIMASA? We believe the NPA is the agency that regulates the terminal operators, but now that the government is bringing in the Shippers’ Council, we are worried and NPA workers are equally worried about what should be their fate.
“We have also the issue of the IOCs that have refused to comply with Marine Notice 106 and extant Stevedoring regulations. This matter has been on since 2014 and has battled it since.
On the issue of the onboard gangway, he said: “The presence of onboard ship gangway men and tally clerks in port operation is statutory. This is supported by the dock labour rule of 1967, the National dock labour board established by decree No. 13 of 1979, the Maritime Labour Act, 2003, part ix, this position is further supported by the NIMASA Act, Part VII-Maritime labour.
“On this note, MWUN earlier forwarded a letter in August 2021 to the honourable Minister of Transportation to demand for restoration of the Pool system for registered onboard gangway security men and tally men.”
Responding, among others, Ajaero said: “The MWUN should articulate all these challenges to the Ministry of Transportation, give them two weeks ultimatum from now, nobody would accuse you of not being patient for the past two years. As NLC President, I don’t have any sympathy for anybody that is toying with the lives of workers. Let’s shut down the seaport so that the ministries concerned will do their work.
“I don’t see why you should do a letter to the Minister of Transportation since August 4, 2021, on the need to pay aged seafarers’ pension and they are yet to do so despite a court ruling.
“If it is possible to give them 14 days ultimatum from Monday, March 6, 2023, so that they can act fast on the matter because nobody should toy with the issue of workers, then do so. NLC is ready to give you solidarity action until they obey the agreement.
They have acted illegally and they don’t expect somebody to act legally with them. Every illegal action requires an illegal action. What the law requires is for you to give them adequate notice which you have done.”