By Innocent Orok
In a great leap forward in dockworkers’ welfare, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has midwifed the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) on a revised minimum wage and improved living standard for dockworkers. The new deal on “Reviewed Minimum Standard for the Dock Labour Industry” between the Seaport Terminal Operators and Dockworkers followed the CBA initiative endorsed by NIMASA in 2018.
The agreement was signed at a well-attended ceremony at the NIMASA headquarters in Lagos chaired by Chairman of the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) and the Agency’s Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Mr. Victor Ochei.
Ochei, who represented the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, stated in a brief address that NIMASA was committed to the pursuit of global best practices in the design and implementation of conditions of service for dockworkers.
He said, “NIMASA would monitor the implementation of the CBA to ensure that all dockworkers in Nigeria are protected and catered for in line with the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work Agenda, which focuses on job creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue, with gender equality as a crosscutting objective.”
Ochei also clarified that there will be follow-up agreements by the different dock labour employers and stakeholders to guarantee maximum protection for dockworkers wherever they worked within the sector.
“But all other agreements subsequent to this one would be an addendum to the CBA, which is intended to ensure that minimum standards, as enshrined in the relevant laws and conventions, are respected,” Ochei stated.
In her remarks, Director, Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations (TUSIR), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mrs. Omoabie Akpan, who represented the Minister, said the improved conditions of service in the CBA would have a ripple effect by increasing the productivity of the dockworkers, all for the good of the industry and the economy.
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, praised the leadership of the dock labour community in Nigeria for helping to create the conducive atmosphere in which the agreement was hashed out. Amaechi, who was represented by a Deputy Director in the ministry, pledged the Federal Government’s commitment to the implementation of the CBA.
Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, who led other members of the group to the event, applauded the “seamless process initiated by NIMASA” to protect dockworkers, “the bedrock of port operation.”
Haastrup said seaport terminal operators “are happy as employers of labour to give dockworkers the wages they rightly deserve.”
She said unlike the pre-2006 port concession years, “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.”
On his part President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, equally deplored the conditions of dockworkers before the port concession, saying, “But 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 back home with something reasonable as retirement benefits.”
Those who witnessed the signing of the CBA included NIMASA’s Director, Maritime Labour Services, Mr. Olayemi Abass; Director, Cabotage Services, NIMASA, Mrs. Rita Uruakpa; President, National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC), Mr. Bolaji Sunmola; and Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, Mr. Ascanio Russo. There were also representations from other stakeholders, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).