From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Members of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) have undertaken to further improve the welfare of dockworkers at the nation’s seaports by sealing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN).
Through the renewal and implementation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement every three years since the ports concession of 2006, the terminal operators have been improving the welfare of dockworkers who, until then, had no condition of service and were poorly paid.
The latest agreement, signed yesterday at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) headquarters in Lagos, would lead to an increase in the dockworkers’ wages, allowances and retirement benefits for the next three years.
STOAN Chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup, who led the other members to the agreement signing, was excited that terminal operators have ensured industrial harmony at the seaports since 2006 by prioritising dockworkers’ welfare.
“We are happy as employers of labour to give the dockworkers the wages they rightly deserve,” she said. “It is always our joy to bring succour and joy into the hearts of our workers.
“Before the 2006 port concession, the monthly income of an average dockworker was less than N5,000, but today, we make bold to say that we now pay our dockworkers very well.
“Our dockworkers are now well respected and well compensated for the work they do. This is because we acknowledge dockworkers as the bedrock of port operation.”
Haastrup added: “Before we became their employers, dockworkers were not respected. They were seen as troublemakers and thugs at the ports, but today, we have worked together with the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria to change the narrative.
“Dockworkers are professional quayside workers vital to port operation. They are essential workers and we are happy to treat and remunerate them as such.
“I am proud to say that the present crop of dockworkers at the various ports across the country are well trained and conduct themselves professionally.”
On his part, the President-General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, commended the Federal Government for concessioning the ports to private terminal operators, noting that the exercise has improved the lives of port workers through enhanced welfare package.
According to him, “that reform has changed the lives of dockworkers all over the nation’s seaports. In those days, an average dockworker that worked for eight hours a day would go home with N4,000 at the end of the month.
“We used to have stevedoring contractors but they did not care about the welfare of the workers. Some of them even ran away with the pensions of dockworkers.”
However, “since the terminal operators came in, we have seen the difference between the stevedoring contractors of those days and the terminal operators of today. We have been enjoying the present arrangement. My happiness today is to see the dockworkers retire with something reasonable as benefit.”
On his part, the NIMASA Executive Director, Cabotage and Maritime Labour, Victor Ochei, commended STOAN and MWUN for signing the new agreement. He urged all concerned to ensure full implementation of the agreement for the benefit of the dockworkers.