05 January 2017, Lagos – The lull in the maritime industry mainly due to economic crisis has claimed the jobs of 7,000 dockworkers in the last one year.
The situation, it was learnt, was compounded by the high tariffs on imports, which had chased many importers to seaports of neighbouring countries, causing reduction in the number of ships carrying bulk cargo.
The President-General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Anthony Nted, confirmed to our correspondent that more than 7,000 dockworkers were sacked in the sector between January and December 2016, adding that many firms had also shut down operations.
He added that the traffic at the seaports had become low and the foreign exchange scarcity was adversely affecting most manufacturers and investors.
According to him, most firms that could no longer cope with the situation had to disengage some of their workers.
Nted had said during union’s National Executive Council meeting and special delegates conference in Lagos that the loss of jobs in the maritime sector was affecting the union as more workers were faced with insecurity and family challenges.
The MWUN leader said that it had become more difficult to protect the jobs of members in various branches as the union had not been able to discuss review of conditions of service.
“Where collective bargaining agreement and conditions of services negotiations are due for review, the union is forced to accept marginal increases where possible and trading off increment with withdrawal of redundancy threats. We appeal to the government to find urgent solution to the recession before it escalates,” he said.
The President, Dockworkers Branch of the MWUN, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, maintained that the situation was made worse by the ban imposed on importation of many items by the government, adding that it was not proper for the government to impose ban on everything.
An earlier report quoted him as saying, “We pray for the government to see reasons and hearken to the voice of the people that you cannot just ban everything totally. At least there is a need for them to cushion the effects of this ban on the lives of the people. Some people say we should diversify the economy; yes, there is a need for us to diversify but it is not something you do overnight. They are talking about local rice; how many of us can afford to buy ofada rice?
“I agree with those who campaign for diversification; it has become very necessary, but I still quarrel with the style of banning so many items.
“They should look at it again. Rice is costly but that is the food that poor people have relied on for many years. There is no home that that you go to that you won’t find rice; but look at it, a bag of rice now costs about N23,000. A keg of four litre groundnut oil is almost N14,000. How many people can afford that? How’s somebody who has a wife and five children, for instance, going to cope?”
On the capacity building for dockworkers, Adeyanju said about 6,000 dockworkers were recently trained on employer/employee relations as well as health and safety, adding that the training received had refined them and prevented them from using confrontational approach to air out their grievances.
“If this training continues, I don’t see violence, fighting and rabble rousing continuing in among the dockworkers,” he said.