The newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement has rejuvenated the Nigerian dockworkers as welfare package and productivity of the workers have received a boost, YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
Just like human body cannot function without the heart, so also can any seaport exist without dockworkers. In fact, they are the heartbeat of port operations anywhere in the world. Dockworkers are responsible for the evacuation of cargoes from the vessels to various terminals and because of their important role and their contribution to the nation’s economy, when they sneeze, the nation’s economy catches cold.
But, in Africa, Nigerian dockworkers happen to be among one of the highly paid with best condition of service among its contemporary. It is, however, noteworthy to know that until recently, safety and welfare of dockworkers were neglected because they have no structured pool of engaging dockworkers.
Meanwhile, the introduction of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) brought a new dawn to the maritime industry as it guarantees the safety of dockworkers and compensation plans in case of accidents.
For instance, last year, the federal government midwifed a new salary structure between terminal operators and dockworkers which made the workers become one of the highest paid on the continent.
With this new salary structure, dockworkers, that once had no condition of service, now have a sense of belonging in the maritime sector with an improved salary package and a well-structured work details.
The Improved Salary Package
The improved salary structure, which was midwifed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), now has dockworkers enjoying a 60 percent 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, that 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.
The members of the NJIC includes: 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 agreement, which was documented, involves increase in their wages and allowances and certain emoluments and benefits. It equally includes; 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 to LEADERSHIP on the CBA, the president-general of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, applauded the initiative, saying, with this arrangement, dockworkers have all reasons 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 dockworkers 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 pointed out.
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 is witnessing a new dawn with this initiative. He pledged that the leaders of the union will 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.
Moreover, the chairman of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Dr. (Mrs.) Vicky Haastrup, stated that without the dockworkers, there will 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 led to mutual understanding among stakeholders in the ports and also giving 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. Haastrup stated further that the Collective Bargaining Agreement will spur dockworkers to perform better as the welfare of the dock workers is 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.
Meanwhile, the chairman, Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin and the President of the National Association of Stevedoring Companies, Mr. Bolaji Sunmola also commended 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 is 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 will impact a lot on ports operations and in turn the entire economy, hence the need to ensure that they are 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 actualization of a robust economy,” he stated.
Gambo further urged the operators to bear in mind that the welfare of the dock workers will impact a lot on the ports industry and also in turn the entire economy, hence the need to ensure that they are properly catered for.
“When the welfare of the dockworkers’ are put into proper perspective, we have a healthy maritime sector, thereby leading to the actualisation of a robust economy”, the chairman stressed.
On his part, the director, Maritime Labour Services of NIMASA, Mr. Ibrahim Jibril, noted that NIMASA believes that all parties will ensure full implementation of the agreement and that this will 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 the new agreement will demonstrate the agency’s commitment, which is 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 mercenaries towards ensuring a successful exercise in line with the provisions of the existing agreement and the demand for its review.