Shipping companies are reluctant to negotiate a new welfare package, Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) approved by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). Due to their attitude to workers’ welfare, the union has issued a seven days ultimatum to the affected shipping companies operating to sign a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the workers or face withdrawal of services.
Prior to this development, it has been said that Nigerian seafarers are among the poorest paid in the world. While the International Labour Organisation (ILO) minimum wage for Able Seamen was $1,078 for cook or cleaner, a master earned between $6,633 and $8,000 monthly as at 2022.
The President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, who signed the ultimatum on February 17 2023, explained that it was unfortunate that the employers of labour in shipping companies were not ready to negotiate the welfare package of the workers.
Adeyanju said that other branches under the union had an existing CBA with their employers, saying that the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) was trying to dodge responsibility by asking the workers to go and discuss individually with their employers.
He said: “What we are say- ing is that there should be a minimum standard for the shipping workers as obtainable with the dockworkers and seafarers. If you look at what is going on in the shipping companies, the workers are not well remunerated, and if anybody is going on retirement, it is like a death sentence, this is what I have been saying over the years.
“We have declared a state of emergency in the shipping sector, but this time around, we have said that enough is enough, we must have a minimum standard in the shipping sector. “The shipping companies are investors; they came to invest in Nigeria and the workers too should be empowered. They must improve in their remuneration of workers.This agreement is not a new thing that we are asking for negotiation, we have an existing agreement.
“Already, we have the individual negotiations with individual workers and their employers, but we must have a body and a minimum standard as we have with other branches, they must establish a template.”
The president general explained that the union had been on the matter for the past four years, saying that all the necessary regulatory agencies were well informed about it, including the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC). He noted that the shipping companies were making so much money at the expense of Nigerian workers.
Also, National Treasurer of the union, Comrade Uche Igweonu, stated that at the end of the seven days ultimatum, the workers in the shipping sector would take destinies in their hands. Igweonu said: “SAN is urged to create a minimum standard for the workers but their position has been that they are not constituted to negotiate workers welfare. They are also saying that they would be more comfortable negotiating with the workers individually; this negates our agreement signed in 2009.
“Before now, the shipping companies claimed that Federal Competition and Consumer protection Commission (FCCPC) has barred them from negotiating with us, and we asked them to confirm the core mandate of that agency. “It appears they were only buying time, because they came back after two weeks to tell us that the mandate setting them up does not allow them to negotiate workers welfare.
The question now is, who would now be responsible to negotiate workers welfare?” After the seven days ultimatum, Igweonu said that the workers would decide to take destinies in their own hands.