Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

IOCs, Shipping, Port Terminals On Edge

As MWUN Gets NLC’s Backing To Confront Corporate Arrogance


Although the latest ultimatum given to the shipping sector by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to improve on workers welfare package and submit to the instrument of collective bargaining in determining workers progress or face industrial action lapsed more than two weeks ago, there appears to be anxiety amongst operators on what might happen next.

Settle Systems Advert

They are not alone as offshore operations and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) activities are believed to be on edge on the union’s next move following several appeals for the oil companies to improve on a number of identified anti-labour practices it has been accused of, without responding.

While industry feelers indicate that labour movement and many affected employers are currently engaged in moves behind the curtain meetings to resolve amicably, informed sources say  labour movement is nonetheless oiling its arsenal for a possible launch of industrial offensive amid perception by the union of semblance of tactical snub by some of the operators.

Against the background of various past notices for operators and agencies of government in the maritime industry to incorporate international best practices in relating with workers, the support the union received from the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), recently has heightened apprehension, following the union’s prompt decision to revive pending notices, and vowed to clamp down on recalcitrant industry operators and employers.

The union in February issued a seven days ultimatum effective Thursday 17th of February 2023, for the affected operators to sign a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with union.

President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju addressing the press in his office said failure to do so will lead to withdrawal of services by maritime workers. He accused the shipping companies of snubbing every effort to get them to the negotiating table on the need to discuss the improvement of workers condition of service.

Comrade Adeyanju disclosed that while other maritime sectors have embraced CBA, the shipping sector through the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) has proved difficult and obstructive.

“What we are saying is that there should be a minimum standard for the shipping workers as obtainable with the dockworkers and seafarers. If you look at what is going on in the shipping companies, the workers are not well remunerated, and if anybody is going on retirement, it is like a death sentence.

“This is what I have been saying over the years, we have declared a state of emergency in the shipping sector, but this time around, we have said that enough is enough, we must have a minimum standard in the shipping sector. The shipping companies are investors, without workers investments cannot drive itself, too should be empowered. The companies must improve in their remuneration of workers.

“This agreement is not a new thing, we have an existing agreement. Already we have the individual negotiations with individual workers and their employers, but we must have a body and a minimum standard as we have with other branches, they must establish a template.

The current Deputy President of NLC lamented that the union have been on matter in the past four years, and hinted that all the relevant regulatory agencies including the Nigerian Shippers Council have been carried along are well informed about the matter.

Also speaking on the issue, National Treasurer of MWUN, Comrade Uche Igweonu stated that at the end of the seven days ultimatum, the workers in the shipping sector would take their destinies in their hands.

Comrade Igweonu said “SAN is urged to create a minimum standard for the workers, but their position has been that they are not constituted to negotiate workers welfare. They are also saying that they would be more comfortable negotiating with the workers individually, this negates our agreement signed in 2009.

“Before now, the shipping companies claimed that FCCPC has barred them from negotiating with us, and we asked them to confirm the core mandate of that agency. It appears they were only buying time, because they came back after two weeks to tell us that the mandate setting them up does not allow them to negotiate workers welfare.

“The question now is, who would now be responsible to negotiate workers welfare? After the seven days ultimatum, the workers would decide to take destinies in their own hands,” he said.

Also affected by the NLC stance is the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) accused on workers exploitation and the driving of a slave wage regime.

Recall that NLC and MWUN about three weeks ago rejected the recent increment in the salary of NPA workers, describing the increment as a fraudulent, and demanded an upward review.

NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero had stirred the hornet’s nest when he paid a working visit to the headquarters of MWUN in Olodi Apapa, Lagos.

The NLC President likened the said salary increment last year to a bonus, and wondered how after 18-years salary stagnation, NPA think it can just throw peanut at workers in the name of salary increment and under the biting inflationary trend in the country and hardship; and go to sleep.

He said, “If they should increase salary after eighteen years and there is no template for its implementation, it is fraud and it is confusing, they have to come out with the template.

“Some people will tell you that they have increased salary by adding N2,000 on workers or N1,000, this is an increase but it doesn’t follow the due process. If they have increased the salary, what they just did is an award and a bonus.

“Let the MWUN write NPA for us to negotiate salary, the NPA just dash us money, we would write them and thank them for the money, but they should come to the table and let’s negotiate.”

Among other things, NLC backed the MWUN to issue the two-week ultimatum, and to demand that the Ministry of Transportation restore the presence of on-board ship gangway men and tally Clerks, as a nonnegotiable industry statutory standard.

“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

“Nobody should toil with issues that concerns workers, I as NLC President, I have no sympathy on this matter that somebody is toying with interest of the workers.

“When you have written them the letter, shutdown the ports all over the country, we are saying it openly that, for refusing to engage the union for two years, let the ministry of Transportation and Labor do their work.

“We are ready to give you solidarity action until this is obeyed, they have acted illegally and we cannot be legal with them, every illegal action requires an illegal response, ” Comrade Ajaero said.

Speaking earlier, President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju highlighted major challenges confronting the maritime workers, noting that 13,000 job losses were recorded during the port concession of 2006.

He flayed the urge and struggle by various government agencies to come into the  port to farm for revenue while workers condition of service remains unimpressive.

“Terminal Operators by now should have renewed their concession agreement, but recently we heard the Minister of Transportation challenging NPA of not giving Shippers Council a chance to be part of the review.

“Multiple regulatory agencies coming up, where 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 Shippers Council, NPA or NIMASA.

“We believe the NPA is the agency that regulates the terminal operators, but now that government is bringing in Shippers Council, we are worried and NPA workers are equally worried on what should be their fate.” he said

The labour movement also accused IOC’s of ‘blatant refusal to obey government marine Notice 106 of 2014 and extant stevedoring regulations; and refusal to pay aged seafarers monthly pension inspite of court ruling.

In its letter to the Minister of Transportation, Muazu Jaji Sambo, the union stated:

“The issue of payment of PENSION to AGED SEAFARERS in compliance with a subsisting court order is one we recommend for your urgent attention and to be prioritized. The issue has lingered for too long in spite of a subsisting court ruling which demands that they be paid pension,

“The presence of on board 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 Vil = Maritime labour.

The union reminded the minister of its prior correspondences on all the above issues, with special reference to the shipping sector, and requested the minister’s timely response and intervention.

“Need to ensure that a minimum standard condition of service is put in place for our members in the shipping sector as is the practice for the Nigerian Ports Authority, Dock Labour and Seafarers.”

“On this note, MWUN had earlier forwarded a letter dated 5″ August, 2021 to the Honourable Minister of Transportation to demand for restoration of the POOL SYSTEM for registered on board gangway security men and tally men we believe it is receiving attention.

“We wish to inform you sir, that the contract of the terminal operators has long expired and has not been renewed by the authorities. This has put the fate of our members in a state of uncertainty and unwarranted suffering. We therefore seek your intervention.”

Curiously, the Managing Director NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko was on record less than weeks after the labour movement ultimatum to have played down the union’s position, in a tell tale manner that suggest union may have capitulated.

The confusion follows Bello-Koko appreciation to MWUN for purportedly supporting efforts to secure approval for the said salary increment for its workers last year.

Media reports quoting the NPA helmsman response to the union’s letter with reference MWUN/MD/NPA/RFC/23 dated 6th March, 2023 and signed by the Secretary General MWUN said: “Breaking the jinx of salary stagnation suffered for over a decade by the Authority’s employees was made possible with the support of the MWUN, and we remain appreciative.

“This critical support from MWUN has buoyed us to intensify our relentless drive towards continuous improvement in the welfare of our esteemed workers in ways not limited to monthly salary alone”.

“We are further delighted by the fact that our own Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is now the Deputy President of the NLC, this gives us the necessary solidarity and backing to push for more benefits for our highly valued human resources.”

Meanwhile, the plan to shut down the nation’s ports by the union should the federal government and maritime operators fail to address union’s concern is already causing panic amongst industry players; who are concerned that the action may lead to more hardship and disruption of economic activities.

It is remarkable that the union under Adeyanju has remained highly supportive of industrial harmony and has always opted for dialogue sometimes in situation considered unfavourable to workers.

One of those who have expressed concern is the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON).  APFFLON Nation President, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, pleaded with the labour leaders to seek other avenue to accomplish their demand rather than shut down ports operations.

Ogunojemite who also said that unfriendly trade and monetary policies need to be urgently reviewed to enable, urged NLC and MWUN to adopt a different method to solve the alleged negligence and insubordination.

“Nigerians are frustrated and do not have the latitude of patience to keep enduring the hardship and that is why the Government should carefully weigh the implications of every policy before implementation.

“Leaders of various groups must not take any action that could worsen the situation. We plead with Labour Union to explore a better option for reconciliation, we also urge the Federal Government to speedily look into the matter since it concerns the welfare of workers.

“Workers deserve their wages and entitlements and any ploy targeted at denying them such right is not in the interest of the nation,” Ogunojemite stated, adding:

“While we hope that the incoming administration will look into these areas and make life better for citizens, APFFLON earnestly plead with the Labour Union and leadership of MWUN to consider the very difficult economic situation and explore a better way of bringing the Federal Government to the negotiation table instead of shutting down the ports.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Translate »