By Steve Agbota, Lagos
Following the intervention of the Nigerian Shippers” Council (NSC), the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has suspended the shutdown of APM Terminals, Apapa, over anti-labour practices.
After a meeting with NSC Executive Secretary Barr Hassan Bello, MWUN President-General Adewale Adeyanju warned other multinational companies in the maritime sector against bringing in foreign workers from Benin, Ghana and other West African countries to take up jobs reserved for Nigerians.
Adeyanju said the union has suspended the picketing of APM Terminals, explaining that for over 16 years the MWUN has never shut down or issued an ultimatum on the terminal.
He said, however, that the current management of APM Terminals have no regard for the dockworkers and terminal workers working for them.
Adeyanju alleged that the terminal closed down its security department and brought in foreign workers from Benin Republic to take jobs meant for Nigerians. He said that the closing of the department was done without due process even with the union having an existing agreement with the management that they have to work with the MWUN.
According to Adeyanju, APM Terminals management violated the agreement, not consulting or meeting with the union, saying this was what led to the union protest that lasted for two days at the terminal.
‘What the management is trying to do now is to bring in people from Cotonou and Ghana to come and take over the job Nigerians have been trained for. The terminal workers in APMT are the best workers anyone can think of and what they are doing now is to bring in Beninoise to take over the job all in the name of expatriates,’ the union leader explained.
‘We said no; if this company can collapse a department, they might equally extended it to other departments having it in mind to replace all Nigerians with foreigners. The worst thing they did was to bring in an accountant from Ghana to become director of fiance at the company. Are they saying we do not have qualified accountant in Nigeria?’
He called on the Nigerian government to look address the issue of foreign workers and their work permits, appealing to the Nigerian Immigration Service and relevant authorities to regulate expatriate activities.
Responding to the matter, NSC Executive Secretary Bello commended the MWUN for its reasonable approach to the industrial action against APM Terminals.
Bello accused APM Terminals of resisting regulation, saying request for information by the Council was turned down by management of the terminal.
‘Some terminals are bent on bending rules of this country, they have no respect for the law. This is a letter from the same terminal saying they won’t obey our instructions. We are just asking for information and it is the same notorious terminal we are talking about. They are putting themselves in a position that will not favour them because government is aware, we are filing and sending to the government and it will be recorded against them because they will come for renewal of their lease and the will government will get them,’ Bello stated.
He said the Council and the union would work assiduously to sustain the peace and harmony that have existed in port operations, alleging that the terminal operator has refused to abide to the laws of the land.
‘Nobody should come to Nigeria and disrespect us. We support the union for putting the terminal operator to order. We have rules and regulations, we have laws and we have sanctions and nobody should come to our country and take us for a ride,’ he added.
Bello regretted that the strike action on such a facility does have an effect on Nigerian economy because it contributes to gridlock on the port road and congestion in the port.
‘When we see a terminal shut down, we become concerned because of the implications on the economy. It will either add up to the gridlock or to the congestion in the port. We know you are not a striking worker and we know it is because you are being pushed to the wall and you used strike as the last option. You are a well reformed union,’ he said.
‘We are all into this and no one should come to our country and disrespect the law of the country. We protect you, give you chance to make gains but what happened is the cumulative action of the terminal operator.’