The dockers are bearing the brunt of national policy decisions and a rapidly changing maritime industry.
Thirty-five shop stewards participated in a two-day workshop from 31 August in Lagos, Nigeria, to discuss both the challenges and union strategies to tackle them in other countries. They emphasised developing campaigns and regional and global solidarity.
The MWUN and the ITF also facilitated a meeting with representatives of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Shippers Council, the National Association of Stevedoring Companies and several terminal operating companies. Key issues discussed included the need for:
• NIMASA to enforce the use of only registered dock workers in all Nigerian seaports, jetties and platforms, and to take a strong stand on the implementation of safety measures in terminals
• the standardisation of stevedoring contractors’ rates across terminals
• the federal government to reconsider urgently the mass sacking of tally clerks and on board security men since December 2015
In a letter to transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi on 20 September, ITF dockers’ section secretary Sharon James expressed appreciation for NIMASA’s commitments and said: “These issues are of grave concern…because of the number of jobs at stake, and the fact that there is no safety net for Nigerian dockworkers who lose their livelihoods, or are injured or killed on the job.”
She warned that real progress on these issues was needed urgently – particularly a reversal of the decision which led to the mass sackings, which is being legally challenged by 1,686 dockworkers – to prevent escalation of an already highly-charged atmosphere.
Ms James said import restrictions were also significantly hurting dockers, as their wages and jobs largely depended on import cargo, and urged the government to consider the need for transition and mitigation strategies when implementing new policies that could threaten large numbers of livelihoods.
She asked all stakeholders to emulate the MWUN’s positive approach to addressing these problems “in order to achieve equitable and long term outcomes, especially for the men and women who are the backbone of the industry”.