TICT Controversial Insurance Scheme Protest Enters Day 2
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
As the protest by workers enters two two at the Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT), Lagos, importers and licensed customs agents say they are at the receiving end of the ongoing protest, as they worry over rising demurrages and accumulated penalties.
The workers who shut down the TICT facility yesterday have reportedly refused to shift ground, as at the time of filing this story, insisting that management must reverse itself on the forceful introduction of a controversial new HMO (Health Management Organisation) insurance plan, believed to have been activated without prior knowledge of the workers.
As a way of calling the workers bluff, TICT management are believed to have commenced massive outsourcing of certain category of tasks being handled by the protesting workers; hitting off fresh worry that workers at the end of the protest may be re-absolved on contract basis, fueling concerns about reintroduction of casaulization.
As the standoff continue, there are rumour that management of TICT are contemplating granting clearing agents storage charges that will accumulate; without saying anything about demurrages from other incidental operations such as shipping companies and transporters. Container charges at the terminals are graduated, starting from N12, 800 third day accrued fee on daily progression, while shipping company charge N20, 800 daily as demurrage.
Commenting on the development, President of the All Ports Unified Freight Forwarding Association (APUFFA), Chief Mike Okorie said importers and freight forwarders are been sacrificed on the altar of administrative rascality and misjudgment, noting that the terminals and shipping companies will continue to smile to the bank, while the importers already burden burdened by excessive charges and demurrages will bear the brunt of the current misunderstanding; together with customs clearing agents and freight forwarders.
“Agents and freight forwarders are not involved in what is happening, but we are the one to suffer the financial and economic consequences. It is TICT workers that are protesting improper insurance matters, they stopped worked since yesterday and as l am speaking with you, their gates are still locked.
“I don’t know how soon they will settle, but even the demurrages from yesterday and today alone are huge, at the end of the day, the terminal operators and shipping companies will always go to the bank happy. We are the ones to bear the brunt, which is the irony of the situation we find ourselves.
“We even thank God that we are now having an easy going maritime workers union, those days you can’t just make laws and expect the union to take it lightly. We don’t expect this kind of rascality at this modern age, now they have caused problems and importers, freight forwarders and agents will be one paying.
“In Ghana, Togo and elsewhere, this sort of demurrages are waived; the government will monitor the matter and ensure that innocent importers and agents are not punished for what they didn’t cause. Who will do that for us in Nigeria, is it Nigerian Shippers’ Council, is it the Nigerian Ports Authority, who”, he asked disappointingly.
Also commenting, President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, said the union is already discussing with management of TICT to resolve the dispute.
“It is true workers are protesting about insurances deductions by TICT which they are not happy about. Unfortunately, the management failed to do sensitization before embarking on implementation. We all know conditions attached to HMO, you cannot just introduce an HMO to workers without due process, workers have every right to choose the HMO of their choice.
“They have the right to be suspicious and to be angry, but we are already discussing with everyone involved with a view to resolving the impasse.”
The union leader also said part of the grievance is the outsourcing of some of the maritime workers job, all of which are being discussed to find a common ground.
“We have called the management and told them that now that workers are agitating for their right, they should suspend the HMO for now. Workers also protesting about the outsourcing of their jobs. There are some departments that the terminal believes it can no manage, and it is giving these out.”