The President-General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, has commended the Federal Government for concessioning the ports to private terminal operators, saying the exercise has impacted positively on the lives of port workers.
Speaking in Lagos last week, Adeyanju said private terminal operators, who are the port concessionaires, have improved the welfare of port workers through progressively increased salaries, allowances and retirement benefits since they took over operations at the port 15 years ago.
Adeyanju said prior to the port concession in 2006, the wages of dockworkers were nothing to write home about but all that has changed since the concessionaires (terminal operators) took over.
“The era of using dockworkers as slaves in their fatherland no longer exists. We want to thank the Federal Government for concessioning the ports because that reform has changed the lives of dockworkers all over the nation’s seaports.
“Before concessioning, the wages of dockworkers was nothing to write home about. In those days, an average dockworker that worked for eights hours a day would go home with four thousand naira at the end of the month. We used to have stevedoring contractors but they did not care about the welfare of the workers. Some of the stevedoring contractors even ran away with the pensions of dockworkers.
“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 benefit,” Adeyanju said during the signing of a new three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement by members of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and the union.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, noted that terminal operators have ensured industrial harmony at the seaports by prioritising the welfare of dockworkers.
She said, “We are happy as employers of labour to give the dockworkers the wages they rightly deserve. It is always our joy to bring succour and joy into the hearts of the our workers.
“Before the 2006 port concession, the monthly income of an average dockworker was less than five thousand naira but 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. This is because we acknowledge dockworkers as the bedrock of port operation.
“Before we became their employers, dockworkers were not respected. They were seen as troublemakers and thugs at the ports. But today, we have worked together with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria to change narrative.
“Dockworkers are professional quayside workers who are vital to port operation. They are essential workers and we are happy to treat and remunerate them as such.
“I am proud to say that the present crop of dockworkers at the various ports across the country are well trained and they conduct themselves professionally.”