The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) says the average take-home pay of a dockworker has increased by 2,000 per cent since 2006.
The President of STOAN, Dr Vicky Haastrup, said this at the maiden Dockworker’s Day celebration, organised by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN) in Lagos on Thursday.
The celebration has the theme,’ Dockworkers: The Unsung Heroes of Nigerian Port Reforms’.
According to Haastrup, dockworkers were poorly paid with no conditions of service and identifiable employers prior concession.
She added that they were exploited, dehumanised and underpaid, and their safety, in the course of performing their duties, was not standard.
“But all of that has changed, thanks to the bold move of the Federal Government to reform and concession the ports in 2006.
“As you all know, the port concession transferred cargo-handling operations from Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to professional private terminal operators, who won lease agreements ranging from 15 to 25 years.
“NPA remained the landlord, technical regulator and provider of marine services and seventeen years into the port concession exercise, there is a general consensus that the exercise has fully delivered on its promises,” she said
She noted that the landlord model of port concession, adopted by the Federal Government, had freed it feom financial burden required to develop and operate the terminals.
According to her, this burden has been transferred to the private terminal operators, also known as concessionaires.
“In addition to not spending money to acquire cargo handling equipment and other associated terminal operating costs, the Federal Government now realises much more revenue from the ports,” she said
She said in addition to modernising the port, the Seaport terminal operators collectively worked together to give a new lease of life to dockworkers.
Haastrup noted that every other year, STOAN members and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) under the supervision of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) signed new Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA).
“This is midwifed by the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) to further enhance the welfare of dockworkers in the country.
“The CBA ensures fair treatment of dockworkers, payment of living wages and institutionalisation of retirement benefits to them.
“In essence, unlike what obtained before port concession, our dockworkers now have conditions of service.
“The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the union and terminal operators has also ensured industrial harmony at the port,” she said.
The STOAN president said that the association recognises the importance of the dockworkers, adding that they are professionals and essential workers and are vital and crucial to port operations.
She noted that without dockworkers, there would not be effective port operation, saying, “the success of port concession can not be written without copious mention of the role of dockworkers.
“Let me reiterate here, today, that terminal operators remain unflinchingly committed to the welfare of dockworkers despite the economic situation in the country.
“I want to particularly thank the President-General of MWUN, Mr Adewale Adeyanju, for his maturity and patriotic leadership style. The way he has managed the affairs of the union over the past few years has translated to better life for dockworkers.
“In the last couple of years, we have not heard of stoppage of operation. This has become a thing of the past in our port and I commend the leadership of the union for this,” she said.
Haastrup, also the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, noted that the organisation had the largest number of dockworkers engaged at its terminals.
She commended the worker’s union, NPA, NIMASA, and terminal operators for collaborating in uplifting the standards of the docklabour industry and the dockworker’s welfare.
Mr Eugene Agha, SCAN President, said the nation, over the decades, maintained a deliberate silence on dockworker’s rightful recognition and celebration, the trickling effects of the port reforms of 2006, notwithstanding.
“Though, beginning on a low scale with the hope to enhance it, going forward, and pioneering it with this event theme.
“It will showcase the growth and development of Nigerian ports in line with international best practices.
“It will highlight the gains of collective bargaining and the imperatives of capacity building in a fast-changing and technology-focused industry, and by extension expose the investment opportunities,” he said.