...Says ship owners frustrating signing of NJIC agreement
The Merchant Navy and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association has called for the domestication of the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) 2006 in Nigeria. The association noted that the process of domestication lies strictly with the National Assembly, even as it said that its position has been forwarded to the apex regulatory body, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)
Deputy Secretary General of the union, Comrade John Okpono in a chat with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week also lamented that ship owners were frustrating efforts to sign the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) agreement which, like the MLC 2006, also has to do with welfare and remuneration of Nigerian seafarers.
Okpono confirmed that negotiations on the NJIC has been completed, and that what is left is for the concerned parties namely; NIMASA, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) the Ship Owners and the Merchant Navy Senior Staff Association to come up with final draft for signing and the NJIC would take effect.
On the MLC 2006, Okpono reiterated that an average Nigerian seafarer is not happy because their welfare is not too good.
He lamented that as a result, most shipping companies do not have Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA; a document that is collectively negotiated and agreed, signed into law by the union representing the employee, and the management of the company.
He told our correspondent that the union had held a meeting early this month with Executive Director Maritime Labor and Cabotage Services of NIMASA, Mr. Gambo Ahmed, and that he has agreed to resolve the challenges.
"The NJIC has expired as far back as 2011. But the review process commenced in 2016, and to the best of all the union; MWUN and Merchant Navy, we concluded the arrangement 2017 and we are expecting the final draft for signing"
"The ship owners have come with another view of renegotiation, they have got attention from NIMASA, but we are saying that renegotiation has been done already and signed, we did meetings for about seven times, all our agreements were typed and signed, but unfortunately they are coming up with another position, they said that the one we signed is a mere proposal. This is what is delaying the NJIC document"
"However, individually, the companies renew CBA every two years between the union and the employer. The NJIC when it comes into play would now be a benchmark", he said.
According to Comrade Okpono, the cost of renewing a seafarer's Certificate of Competency (CoC) every five years has increased, therefore there is need for their welfare and wages to be increased in line with the cost of certification.
He said the association in recent time has been receiving complaints from seafarers about extortion from government agencies including Customs, Navy and Marine Police operating at Lagos anchorage.
"We still make case for the multiple collections, taxation on the seafarers, complaints have come to this office from the seafarers that in the course of doing their job, mostly at Lagos anchorage, they face a lot of challenges from Customs, Immigration, Police and the Navy personnel over extortion"
The union also urged NIMASA to open a bilateral agreement with other shipping nations, in so doing, Nigerian certificates would be recognized, and they would be able to get job onboard oceangoing vessels.