BusinessDay

Port operations at risk as labour threatens strike from March 1

…notifies FG over unresolved issues with IOCs

Operations within the nation’s ports face the risk of being disrupted as the organised labour has hinted of plans to pull out maritime workers for a two-week strike.

Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, (MWUN), the umbrella body for workers in the sector, recently petitioned the Federal Government over an alleged refusal of International Oil Companies (IOCs), to allow stevedoring companies and registered dockworkers access to their platforms for operations, as required by law.

In a letter dated February 14, 2022, addressed to the minister of transportation, minister of labour and employment, and copied among others, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Shippers Council, and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the MWUN threatened to shut ports operations nationwide from March 1, 2022, if the IOCs remained adamant.

In the letter signed by Adewale Adeyanju and Felix Akingboye, president-general and secretary of the MWUN, respectively, the union said: “We bring to you the decision of the central working committee (CWC), of the union at its meeting held on January 24, 2022, to embark on an indefinite strike effective Tuesday, March 1, 2022, over the IOCs non-compliance with the Extant Stevedoring Regulations known as Government Marine Notice 106 of 2014.

“It will be recalled that the minister of transportation at a meeting held on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, with the IOCs, representatives of NPA, NIMASA, MWUN, stevedoring companies, and other stakeholders, directed that the IOCs should within seven days allow the stevedoring companies access to their platforms to commence operations, which by extension will enable the registered dockworkers along with the appointed stevedoring companies to operate in the IOCs platforms.

“It is inconceivable that up till now the IOCs have bluntly refused the appointed Stevedoring Companies to commence operations and has thus deprived our members (dockworkers) in the employ of the stevedoring companies to work and earn a living. This is a sharp contravention of the provisions of Government Marine Notice 106 of 2014.

“The Government Marine Notice 106 applies to all companies and persons engaged in Stevedoring work, including Dock Labour Employers and Private Operators of any work location including Ports, Jetties, Onshore or Offshore Oil and Gas or Bonded Terminals, Inland Container Depots (ICDS), off Dock Terminal, Dry Ports and Platforms.

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The union further stated in the letter that paragraph 3 of the referred Government Marine Notice stipulates that: “All operators of ports, jetties, onshore or offshore, oil and gas or bonded terminals, inland container depots (ICDs), offshore dock terminals, dry ports, and platforms, and other work locations are hereby given the notice to grant duly appointed Stevedoring Companies to access to their premises to commence operations. It is regretted to report that the IOCs have refused to comply with said Government Marine Notice 106, since 2014 when it was issued.

“Recall that the union had protested this unjust depredation meted out to our members by the IOCs. In 2019, the Union was compelled to embark on a three-day warning strike at the expiration of a 21-day notice which was later suspended on the intervention of the minister of transportation.

“Also, on April 9, 2021, a 7-day notice was given vide a Press Release of April 9, 2021, which was further extended by another seven days on the intervention of the NPA’s management that pleaded to be given time to prevail on the almighty IOCs to comply with the law. Regrettably, the NPA management’s intervention did not yield any positive result as the IOCs remained recalcitrant.

“In view of the foregoing, the government is hereby placed on notice to the effect that the Union would embark on an indefinite strike in all the nation’s seaports with effect from Tuesday, March 1, 2022, if before then the IOCs are not compelled by the appropriate authorities to comply with the directive in this regard,” the union said.

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