By Seun Ibiyemi
Apparently determined to close seaport operations over nonpayment of monies owed dockworkers nationwide, among other matters, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) ,has declared Tuesday to shutdown operations across the nation.
Recall that the union had issued a two weeks ultimatum to the International Oil Companies (IOCs) ,even as it also reminded the multinationals to fulfil their own bargaining at the weekend.
President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju who gave the directive on Tuesday during a brief meeting with all the four branches in Lagos , reiterated that the union will not go back on its actions except the IOCs engage the union immediately before the 6pm deadline.
Comrade Adeyanju maintained that for over a year, the union and the IOCs were at loggerhead over the unpaid wages, pointing out that the multinationals had remained recalcitrant.
The union’s boss noted that “Enough is enough and the IOC need to respect the laws of the land because these people are denying us our rights by pay failing to pay our wages.”
He commended the Managing Director, of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over efforts made to engage the IOCs operating offshore and onshore in the nation’s territorial water but maintained that the union could not fold its hand when things were not done the right way.
According to him, some of the workers have allegedly died due to failure on the part of the IOCs non-payment of the wages.
Also speaking ,the branch presidents of seafarers, NPA and Shipping who spoke at the meeting stressed that the union is a formidable body that cannot be pushed around.
They noted that there is no going back from 6pm Tuesday deadline as it commence the industry actions.
According to them, it has become necessary that all maritime workers show solidarity with the concerned branch in the fight because an injury to one is an injury to all.
It would be recalled that MWUN in a letter to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transportation, dated June 27, 2019, signed by its Secretary-General, Felix Akingboye said among others, lamented that at the expiration of the ultimatum, nothing was done to address the union’s demands.
According to the letter, “Consequently, the leadership of the union has directed that members of the union shall withdraw services throughout the nation’s seaports effective 0.600 hours (6 am) Wednesday, July 3rd 2019.”
The Union letter was copied among others, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, President, National Associations of Stevedoring Companies, Executive Director, Finance and Administration, NPA, terminal operators and shipping companies.
Earlier, the union had in the June 11, ultimatum asked the Ministry of Transportation to within two weeks ensure the payment of the outstanding wages and address all other related issues, failing which the nation’s ports would be shut down
MWUN in a statement by its President-General and Secretary-General, Prince Adewale Adeyanju and Felix Akingboye, said it could no longer watch while members die prematurely and suffer the humiliation of not being able to meet basic necessities such as house rent, school fees, medical bills among others.
The statement read in part “we want to use this medium to intimate you and the Federal Government of the non-payment of the stevedoring wages to dockworkers by the International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in Nigeria. It is on record that on June 1, 2018, the NPA appointment stevedoring contractors to provide stevedoring contractors to provide stevedoring services at various off-shore jetties and on-shore locations to the International Oil Services and other operators.
“It will be necessary to inform you that NPA had held several meetings with these operators to grant access to the government-appointed stevedoring contractors process their invoices and effect payment, unfortunately, the operators have refused to comply with the NPA directive after one year that the stevedoring contractors were appointed.
“We commend the managing director of Nigerian Port Authority for the NPA management has made to compel the IOCs to engage the services of appointed stevedoring and registered dockworkers in their stevedores and registered dockworkers in their stevedoring operators.
“In fact, at the stakeholders meeting held on February 28, 2018, organised by the NPA at Victoria Island, Lagos, to sensitise stakeholders’ i.e IOCs, Jetty Owners and Terminal Owners, that the NPA appointed stevedores and registered dockworkers are empowered by law to solely handle discharged and loading operations at the ports, jetties and oil platforms.
“The position of the operators on NPA directive is worrisome and very surprising because the same operators had processed and paid the former stevedoring contractors since 2010 through a foremost terminal operator. So, why are they refusing to cooperate with the newly appointed stevedoring contractors since the modus operandi remains the same?
“The MWUN has been monitoring the chain of events on this matter since last one year, and noted that the implication of the operators’ defiant attitude amongst others is the untimely death of some dockworkers while awaiting the payment of their wages, because they could not meet their family obligations like payment of house rent, children school fees and hospital bills, to mention but few. We can no longer continue to watch our members die prematurely because of defiant the attitude of the IOCs.
“Consequently, we are constrained to give the Ministry of Transportation that superintends the appointment of stevedores two weeks (14 days) to prevail on the management of the IOCs to pay all outstanding bills to our members, failing which we will be compelled to withdraw our services and shut down operations in all the Nations Sea Ports.”