The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria threatened to commence industrial action on Monday due to the inadequate welfare conditions of its members in the shipping sector. This development has elicited a response from certain operators within the maritime industry who argue that the proposed shutdown would negatively impact their business operations.
Nonetheless, during a press briefing at the MWUN head office in Apapa on Thursday, President General Adewale Adeyanju clarified that the group’s decision to go on strike stems from the failure of shipping companies’ management to engage in discussions and negotiations concerning the welfare and terms of service for its members in the shipping sector.
Adeyanju highlighted the lack of cooperation from shipping companies towards the workers’ unions, despite numerous interventions and meetings to find a mutually agreeable resolution to the unresolved welfare matters affecting their members in the shipping sector.
He further explained that these various meetings resulted in the issuance of a 7-day ultimatum, following the expiration of a previously issued 14-day ultimatum to the shipping companies.
“But the attitude of the Shipping Association of Nigeria is nothing to write home about, which 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.”
Due to the refusal of shipping employers to negotiate minimum standards and service conditions for its members in the shipping sector, the MWUN leader announced that the union had no choice but to reinstate the previous 7-day ultimatum given to the shipping employers.
To foster a peaceful industrial climate in the shipping sector, the former Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, had instructed the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to oversee a collective bargaining agreement meeting between MWUN and all shipping companies in Nigeria.
Adeyanju emphasized that despite multiple meetings organized by the NSC, representatives of the shipping companies intentionally obstructed the negotiation process.
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.”
In addition, he called upon the appropriate authorities to tackle the concerning security issues, specifically the problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta. He stressed that addressing these challenges would facilitate the production of hydrocarbons at affordable costs, leading to profitability.
In response to these statements, Mr Lucky Amiwero, the Founder of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, expressed his view that the proposed shutdown would result in significant 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.”
“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.”