At a time when the organised labour unions in Nigeria are agitating for increase in the nation’s minimum wage, dockworkers in the nation’s maritime industry have already been enjoying increment in wages. YUSUF BABALOLA writes
Increment in wages of dockworkers by terminal operators is unprecedented in the history of dock labour in Nigeria. Although this didn’t come on a platter of gold, it came with series of protests and threat to shutdown port activities in various ports across the country but at last, a new wage and salary increment was achieved for Nigerian dockworkers.
With this new salary structure, dockworkers who once had no condition of service now have a sense of belonging in the maritime sector, an improved salary structure and a well- structured work details.
The improved salary structure which was midwifed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) now have dockworkers enjoying a 60 per cent increment in wages and salary and with a structure earning an average of N150,000 a month compare to N10,000 earned pre-port concessioning of 2016.
NIMASA, which rallied other stakeholders for a better living standard for dockworkers through the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which was intended to improve the welfare of dockworkers in line with global best practices.
Members of the NJIC include NIMASA, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Stevedoring Contractors, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Labour and Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN).
NJIC is the body responsible for negotiating and reviewing minimum standards for dock labour industry. It was constituted in 2008 following the need to establish minimum standards for the Dock Labour Industry after the ports were concessioned in 2006.
The agency is statutorily empowered under section 27(1) (b) of NIMASA Act 2007 to facilitate the NJIC meetings and circulate signed agreements to all concerned parties. Further to this, the agency is also to ensure strict compliance on implementation of the CBA.
The agreement, which was documented involved increase in their wages, allowances, certain emoluments and benefits, which include payment of redundancy and retirement benefits by terminal operators to aged dockworkers, payment of specified allowances to a deceased dock worker’s next of kin and pension contribution scheme for dock workers amongst other items listed in the agreement.
Speaking after the signing ceremony of CBA in Lagos, the chairman of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Mrs Vicky Haastrup, stated that without the dockworkers, there would be no ports, because the workers play a major role in economy of the ports, hence their welfare is paramount.
While commending NIMASA for its efforts in coordinating the NJIC, she observed that the initiative has brought about understanding among stakeholders in the ports and also given room for the peace and orderliness the maritime sector is enjoying.
“We must all work together to ensure that the interest of the common dockworker is protected,” she said.
Haastrupp stated further that the Collective Bargaining Agreement would spur the dockworkers to perform better as the welfare of the dock workers was well catered for in the agreement.
“This agreement I believe will spur the dock workers to perform better than they have always done because this agreement actually takes care of the wages and the condition of service of dock workers in Nigeria. It will also improve the quality of life of the dock workers.
“The port in Nigeria was concessioned in the year 2006, and the average income of dock workers then was N5000, which I find ridiculous because N5000 will not pay their transport fare, not to talk about paying for their everyday expenses.
”And since the port in Nigeria was concessioned, the terminal operators have as a matter of duty increased the salary and condition of service of dock workers every two years,” she said.
On his part, the president-general of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, applauded the initiative saying with the agreement, dock workers have all reason to smile home at the end of the month.
“With this agreement, there is a structure put in place by the stakeholders here today. So if the dock workers are going home now, they know they are going home with something better.
“Unlike in the past where dock workers are just picked on the roads and given whatever payment. However, with this structure put in place, I think the dock workers have every reason to smile home,” he said.
Adeyanju also pleaded that all parties involved should endeavour to fulfill their obligations as contained in the agreement.
Accordingly, he stated that it has never been this good in the industry, but for the supervision of NIMASA through the NJIC initiative, the industry was witnessing a new dawn with this CBA that was being signed.
He also used the opportunity to pledge that the leaders of the union would continue to ensure the sustenance of peace and harmony in the maritime sector in the interest of the sector and the Nigeria economy as a whole.
According to the chairman, Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, and the president of the National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC), Mr. Bolaji Sunmola, also joined in commending the efforts to maintain peace at the ports and called for continuous engagement, as it remains a panacea to a robust maritime sector.
Chairman of the NJIC, Mr. Gambo Ahmed, who is also the executive director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of NIMASA noted that dock labour was an integral part of the maritime industry, hence the need to place priority on their welfare.
He urged operators to bear in mind that the welfare of the dock workers would impact a lot on ports operations and in turn, the entire economy, hence the need to ensure that they were properly catered for.
“When the welfare of the dockworkers are put into proper perspective, we will have a healthy maritime sector, thereby leading to the actualisation of a robust economy,” he stated.
Gambo further urged the operators to bear in mind that the welfare of the dock workers would impact a lot on the ports industry and also in turn, the entire economy, hence the need to ensure that they were properly catered for.
Also speaking, director, Maritime Labour Services of NIMASA, Mr. Ibrahim Jibril, noted that NIMASA believes that all parties would ensure full implementation of the agreement and that this would help the Ease of Doing Business initiative of the federal government as well as improved turnaround time in all activities in the ports.
Jibril said that the new agreement would demonstrate the agency’s commitment, which was in line with the theme of the 107th International Conference held in Geneva viz: “A Future with Decent Work and also Building a Future for the Dock Labour Industry.”
He also assured them that the agency has also put in place all necessary machinery towards ensuring a successful exercise in line with the provisions of the existing agreement and the demand for its review.
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