By Victor Ahiuma-Young
INDICATIONS have emerged that Dockworkers plan to shut down port operations nationwide before Christmas over delay by Terminal operators to review their conditions of service six months after the subsisting one elapsed.
The Dockworkers, investigation revealed, are aggrieved by the reluctance of the Terminal operators to review their conditions of service (Dockworkers’ Minimum Standard). This, they say, has created a bleak Christmas and New Year celebrations for them.
Though the Dockworkers are keeping to their chest the day the industrial unrest would begin, a source disclosed that already foot soldiers are being mobilised in the four major zonal ports formations in Lagos, Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt for effective shut down before Christmas.
Disturbed by the tension and the looming industrial unrest, the leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, has petitioned the Minister of Transport, seeking his intervention to nip in the bud the impending industrial unrest in the next two weeks.
In the petition titled: Re: Delay in the Review of Dockworkers’ Minimum Standard Threat To Industrial Peace, Secretary General of MWUN, Comrade Aham Ubani, said: “Further to our letter, Ref. MWUN/CAPO/SEPT/014/10 dated 14th September, 2010 addressed to the Terminal Operators and endorsed to your Ministry and Parastatals, on the above subject, we wish to report that the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) has been constituted for the Dockworkers Minimum Standard Negotiation.
The negotiation which commenced over four weeks ago has nothing to show for its various sittings, but lamentations by the Terminal Operators over the effect of increase in inflation rate from 9.7% in year 2008 when the minimum standard Agreement was signed to about 13.5% now that the agreement is due for review; depreciation of the value of the Naira and other negative economic indices.
They further stated that the rates for charges on their operations and services have not been reviewed since the past four years when they commenced operations. That the concession agreement provided for the review of the rates of their charges every two years but this was not honoured by the Government and its agencies. The Terminal Operators thus tacitly declined to engage in any meaningful negotiation.
“We wish to humbly inform the Hon. Minister that the Dockworkers’ Minimum standard agreement was signed in May 2008 and it was agreed that it would be reviewed in June 2010. It is now about seven months since the existing agreement elapsed and we have been having a barren negotiation for about one month.
The prevailing situation has given rise to agitation and tension in the workplace by the Dockworkers who are demanding for benefits of the upwards review of their minimum standard condition of service. The Terminal Operators position that except the rate of their charges are reviewed, they cannot improve in the dockworkers condition of service, has visibly increased restiveness among the dockworkers.
It will be dangerous for us to wait for the workers open reaction which now appear imminent. We caution that except something positive is done within the next two weeks, our cherished industrial peace may not be guaranteed and our Union shall not be held liable.”