Maritime workers talk tough over privatization
By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
MONDAY, March 4, 2013,members of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, gathered in Abuja, for their 3rd Quadrennial Delegates Conference, QDC, to take stock of how the union fared in the last four years.It climaxed with the re-election of Comrade Emmanuel Anthony Nted, as President-General of the union for the next four years.
Taking stock of the past four years of the union’s leadership under him, Nted warned against planned to further privatise the services of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, lamenting that the union was yet to recover from the effects of previous exercise done between 2001 and 2012.
According to him; “the current threat of further privatization of the remaining functions of Nigeria Ports is unacceptable anti-society and unpatriotic. 10 years ago between 2001 and 2002 the operational services of Nigerian ports Authority, NPA, were concessioned to private operators.
The exercise rendered over 5,000 direct employees of NPA jobless, about 1 0,000 dockworkers were retrenched and over 3,000 employees of shipping companies who had their operational base in the concessioned areas were declared redundant. In effect over 18,000 Nigerians lost their sources of regular livelihood.”
“Many of these unfortunate Nigerians have since died of the attendant hardship. Some have taking to crimes while some are still fighting for the payment of their terminal benefits even in the law court. The current threat of privatisation of the harbours, pilotage and towing services in NPA is in a very bad fate.
Those agitating for this are doing so purely for selfish reasons. Can we afford a repeat of such vicious circle of mass retrenchment and the negative consequences as experienced 10 years ago? Can we afford to ignore the serious national security implications of handing over the harbours and pilotage services in Nigerian territorial waters to private operators? We say no to the move and employ all patriotic Nigerians to resist and as a union, we shall resist it even with the last drop of our blood.”
Human development: The President-General, recalled the challenges that confronted his leadership immediately after election when some hired hoodlums invaded the national secretariat of the union and inflicted wanton destruction of property among others.
According to him, “having restored the physical structures of the union, we then embarked on aggressive human development programmes and re-orientation of all our members at various levels. Trainings and workshops were organized for a good number of our members both locally and overseas.
This had a positive impact on the attitude and conduct of the workers in the execution of the responsibilities of their employment. Thus the union won the respect and total acceptance of the employers. The workers confidence in the leadership of the union grew to a position of total trust, as the workers’ rights and privileges were always protected by the union. The employers and managements are now enjoying unprecedented industrial peace.
“Recently, the union completed and commissioned its Abuja building at Yaunde Street Wuse Zone 6. The present and future welfare and condition of service of our members are of great concern to our union. While we negotiate as when due, improved condition of service for our members, we also sensitize the workers through seminars and workshops to cultivate the habit of saving monthly no matter how little for their future.
They are also advised to avoid extravagant or ostentatious life style which is not sustainable. While thanking our employers for providing employment to our members, we also solicit their assistance in granting deserving workers access to opportunities to enable them attain their potentials.
NLC commends leadership: Speaking, Acting General Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Chris Uyot, commended leaders of the union for bringing back industrial peace to the maritime sector.
He recalled that the sector was before now prone to violence creating unsafe operating environment to stakeholders and other users of the ports.
Similarly, immediate past President-General of the union, Comrade Onikolease Irabor, commended the Nted led leadership of the union for sustaining the peace and development in the union.
According to him, the union passed through a trying period under his leadership, but because of unity of purpose and above all, the grace of God, the union was able to surmount the challenges.
Surmounting the challenges
He advised members of the union who aspire to become leaders in any capacity to wait for their turn, urging them to maintain peace and avoid anything that could cause crisis in the union.
Guideline on contract, casual workers: Declaring the conference open, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, told members of the union that his Ministry would soon come out with strict guidelines to regulate the employment of contract staff and casual workers in the Maritime sector.
According to him, “My Ministry will come out with strict guidelines to regulate and curb the prevailing issues of contract staffing and casualisation in the Maritime Industry as it had done in the Oil and Gas sector”.
While urging delegates to elect officers who will promote and defend democracy and enhancement of industrial peace and harmony for national development, Wogu declared “I urge all delegates to elect officers who will continue to promote and defend the rights, wellbeing and interests of workers as well as promote and defend democracy, probity and transparency in the trade unions and civil governance”.