The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has threatened to embark on an industrial action on Monday over the poor welfare of its members in the shipping sector.
The development has forced some operators in the maritime sector to kick, saying the proposed shutdown would affect their business operations.
However, the President General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, while briefing journalists at its head office in Apapa on Thursday, explained that the group would embark on the strike action over the failure of the management of shipping companies to discuss and negotiate the welfare and condition of service of its members in the shipping sector.
According to Adeyanju, shipping companies have failed to cooperate with the workers’ unions despite several interventions and meetings to have an amicable resolution of the unresolved welfare issues of their members in the shipping sector.
He said that the several meetings culminated in the issuance of a 7-day ultimatum after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the shipping companies.
“But the attitude of the Shipping Association of Nigeria is nothing to write home about and that is why we have said there’s a need to inform you. Yesterday, we were at the meeting but it didn’t augur well with the union and we felt it was an embarrassment to the union and even to the Minister of Transport who initiated the idea of having a minimum standard in shipping workers’ remuneration. It’s like the Shipping Association of Nigeria is now running away from their responsibility. So we called this briefing to let you know that the shipping branch of MWUN will be forced to withdraw the services of her members as of Monday 5th of June; because we only suspended the ultimatum. However, we need to renew the ultimatum so we might be forced to withdraw the service of all the shipping workers in the shipping branch.”
The MWUN leader said owing to the unwillingness of the shipping employers to negotiate minimum standards and conditions of service for its members in the shipping sector, the union was left with no option but to resuscitate the earlier 7-day ultimatum issued to the shipping employers in the sector.
He said the former Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, in a bid to ensure a peaceful industrial climate in the shipping sector had directed the management of Nigerian Shippers Council to superintend a collective bargaining agreement meeting between MWUN and all shipping companies in Nigeria.
Adeyanju noted that despite several meetings called at the instance of NSC in their premises, representatives of shipping companies deliberately forestalled the negotiation process.
He said they cited a lack of mandate from their respective principal, insisting on maintaining status-quo.
He said, “If someone gives you projects he intends to execute in the next two years; Nigerian companies, having listened to the opportunities, should go back and continue to build their capacities in readiness to actively participate.”
He also challenged relevant agencies to address the worrisome security challenges, particularly oil theft in the Niger Delta, as this would enable the production of hydrocarbons at reasonable costs and profitability.
Reacting to this, the Founder of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Lucky Amiwero, said, the shutdown would lead to huge demurrage.
He said, “If the shutdown of the ports on Monday happens amid the current fuel crisis, there will be a very serious problem. If they are going to shut down the port you will find out that there would be demurrage on goods, delays in cargo delivery, and a lot of things will go wrong. They are talking about poor welfare, I think that is the reason we need a holistic reform. These ports have been operating for years without reforms. Everyone is operating at cross purposes and it is affecting the economy, once you close down those things, it will boomerang, it is going to be a problem.”
Also speaking, a freight forwarder, Mr Abayomi, Duyile, advised against the shutdown, saying it would affect port operations.
“The problem is that unions will always shut down the port. Shutting down the port for a day or two has terrible consequences. What they are fighting for doesn’t affect agents.
“If you are having issues with the shipping line, you are not supposed to shut down the port. There are others using the ports.”