President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Adewale Adeyunju recently spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report’s Godfrey Bivbere on the faceoff with the OICs, the traffic gridlock and the role played by shipping companies and terminal operators, dockworkers pay and much more.
WHAT is the update on the face-off between the MWUN and the IOCs?
We received a letter of invitation from the Ministry of Transportation on Friday for a meeting on Wednesday with the IOCs and all the relevant stakeholders.
What are you asking for?
Our grouse is very clear, how have they been practising in that place before? Who terminated the appointment of the stevedoring operator? The workers are working and you do not allow the stevedoring operator to come in and the workers’ salary has not been paid for almost a year now. That is how bad it is and the Nigerian Port Authority has tried all they could to convince all the IOC’s to adhere to the rules, the law of the land. You cannot be bigger than a country that you are making a whole lot of money from and that is why we come out in this direction.
Let us look at the issue of the union. There was a time I think it was about two years ago, there was this discussion about wages for dockworkers. Then you said the economic situation was not very right, what is the update now?
It’s not bad, there have been some tremendous achievements we have gotten what we had not been having in the past where a particular truck worker would disappear from the country and you would ask him to go without any penny but now truck workers are pensionable, including terminal workers they are also entitled to gratuity as well so there have been new improvements.
Let us look at the traffic situation?
To me, you know the union wanted to embark on realizing the activities of the ports because of the road and I would implore the government to declare a state of emergency and if the road is not being fortified or repaired, the crisis is still going to be more. The problem of littering the roads with empty containers that are supposed to be parked somewhere else should not be there. Because in those days if I have about twenty to thirty containers and does not have any business doing in the port I would not bring my empty container to the port.
But nowadays it is not like that again. The shipping companies are making a whole lot of money from this place by allowing their containers to come in when you know they do not have any business there demurrages. Where are you going to park their containers? Where is the holding bay? They do not have holding bays. In the days of Elder Dempster Lines, they had their holding bays where they stack their empty containers including stuffed containers to be exported but now it is not like that.
I know dockworkers are paid based on the volume of cargo. Does the traffic gridlock not have its side effect on their final take home?
We have three modes of operation for dock workers we have time-related wages, building by tonnage and we have permanent employment. Those are the new agreements that we have now for all dock workers. So it would have a side effect on them. And you see what is affecting us because most of the investors have shifted to other neighbouring countries like Togo and the Benin Republic the activities there are booming as a result of our bad roads I was in tin can Island yesterday and I was discussing with some colleagues and they have started doing some palliatives and I think it is better for us. Even when they finish doing the road you need to look at putting containers off the road.
Is the call-up system working? Those are the things we need to look at because you must involve the terminal operators they are the ones that are operating on containers they must have been to discharge their empty containers. So if we are blaming the government, we should also blame some terminal operators that are into containerized operations. Where do you put empty containers? Where do you put your stuffed containers? You should have a place to put them. So the government should put their searchlight on terminal operators and at the same time on shipping companies because they are the two major people that are giving us this problem.
Finally, the issue of the Taskforce that was set up to control traffic and bring sanity to the roads. How do you assess their performance?
It is still the same problem. Is it not when the roads are good that the task force is going to perform? Have they not started clearing the roads? They have started very well. When the Navy was there what happened? It is you and I that are complaining now they have brought in other people. It is a lot of sabotage we are the ones sabotaging ourselves by putting the containers that are not supposed to be coming into the port on the road you do not need to bring in your empty containers. Most of the containers you see on the road are empty containers coming to load for another one to come. The blame should be given to terminal operators that are into containerized operations. It is not that they are not doing their jobs but those empty containers where are they going to stack them? Most of the containers you see at area B are empty where are they going to? Most of them are going to various terminals to drop the empty containers and there is no space because the port was conceded to different terminal operators.
Everybody has barricaded his area unlike when the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA was in charge of port operations. There were specific places for empty containers. There is a specific place for stuffing containers but it is no longer there. You cannot blame the task force they are doing a very nice job. It is just that we in Nigeria need something urgently. The solution to this problem lies with the shipping companies as well as the terminal operators.
Let us look at MWUN, what is your vision for the union?
My vision is to take the Maritime Workers Union Association to the next level. Next level of progress, good welfare package for dock workers, all the branches under maritime workers union of Nigeria and we have started. The CBA for dock workers we have signed it, the one for shipping we are on it and the one for NPA would be done every 2-3 years since it is government-owned, the one for seafarers is ongoing we have gotten CBA for all our members (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and for seafarers unlike before where they don’t have. CBA entails your Pension, gratuity, your payoff, your terminal benefit and
it is applicable to the dockworkers as well because the dockworkers are now permanent staff. They are on payment by tonnage and they are on time-related wages and if a dock worker is leaving tomorrow, there is a standard for payment for him to be paid. So if anybody is leaving tomorrow. If you have stayed for ten years the amount is there plus your pension and every other regulation attached to it. So that is what I have decided to work on.