Slavery in Labour :
How Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria is winning the battle
*Dockworkers are professionals – Comrade Adeyanju says
By Udeme Clement :
Casualisation in labour is a common practice in Nigeria.
It is a kind of slavery where a person works for many years in an organisation and retires without pension or gratuity.
The victim (that is the employee), after years of hard labour leaves the company with no welfare package or benefits for his retirement.
Casualisation in labour is a very sad situation, but this is what obtains in banking, oil/gas, insurance, media and other sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
It is common to see many retirees in Nigeria, especially the elderly living like beggars in their own country, due to this form of slavery, called casualisation in labour.
However, the story is not the same with dockworkers in the port industry at the moment. All thanks to Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), for its
resilience, hard work, commitments and sacrifices in freeing its members from the slavery of casualisation.
Speaking on the strategies mapped out by the Union to tackle this ugly trend in the ports, the current President -General of MWUN,
Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, who described MWUN as a responsible group, explained the rigorous process passed through by the Union to free dockworkers from being used as slaves by their employers, in their father-land.
“Casualisation is a big issue in the industry.
When we came on board in 2003, the Union worked tirelessly to phase it out step by step.
Let me focus on dockworkers.
“In the port industry right now, we have three modes of operations; such as; Time rated wages; Payment by tonnage and Permanent employment.
In the ports, Terminal Operators are those engaging the services of Stevedoring Contractors, who in turn employ dockworkers. Therefore, no person can just come into the ports and start work without following these arrangements.
“Gone are the days when you can simply pick a person on the road to come and work in the ports.
So, with this structure on ground, an individual must first be duely registered by NIMASA before entering the ports to start work.
“Failure to adhere strictly to the registration process by NIMASA attracts 6 months prison sentence, or N1million fine. This is to show the importance of dockworkers in our ports.”
He went on, “Our efforts to phase out casualisation in labour is what brought about these collective agreements with stakeholders in the maritime industry.”
He added, “Also, in our operations now, we have three modes of agreements, which include; Time rated wages; Agreement by tonnage and Permanent employment.”
Responding to questions on the role of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), as a regulator in the industry, he pointed out,
“The NPA is under Civil Service structure and the current Managing Director is very proactive in addressing issues in the ports.
Shipping also has permanent employment but seafaring is three months on and three months off. In all of these, the Union ensures that every dockworker gets retirement benefits when exiting the industry.
“Therefore, any dockworker under these three categories is entitled to gratuity when leaving the sector.”
He continued,. “Before now, there was nothing like gratuity or pension. So, with these modes of operations in place, if a dockworker is about to leave the industry, he is entitled to his pension, as well as gratuity.
You see, the interesting thing is that sometimes the Union after evaluating the financial capacity of Stevedoring Contractors on inability to settle gratuity of a dockworker can negotiate.
“In this case, we meet the Terminal Operators on a round table to negotiate the exit of such dockworker. During negotiation, NPA and NIMASA will be there as observers. At the end, the Union ensures that the dockworker gets his benefits from the employer.”
The President-General emphasised, “As I said earlier, dockworkers are professionals and must be treated as such.”