•ENL BOSS: “I don’t care, they are irresponsible, vandals
•WORKERS: “You aren’t treating us well, we are like slaves”
About nine months after angry dockworkers vandalized its facilities at berths ‘C’ and ‘D’ in Apapa port, Lagos, ENL Terminal is again neck-deep in another round of face-off with a branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) as well as some employees of the company.
Already, the crisis has landed nine members of the shipping branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) at the Kirikiri prison in Apapa, Lagos, even as strong indications emerged that the aggrieved workers have petitioned the National Assembly over what they called highhandedness on the part of the company’s management.
Although, there are divergent explanations as to why the nine employees landed at the Kirikiri prison, sources however hinted that they were alleged to have vandalized some expensive equipment belonging to ENL and acted outside the umbrella of the MWUN.
Sources told Shipping Position Weekly that there had been undercurrents between management and the affected workers for a while, a development which led the company’s management to call in the Police on October 17 and 18, 2008 and which led to the arrests of the workers and consequent arraignment at the Magistrate court in Apapa on October 22 before Chief Magistrate O.A Okunuga who ordered that they should be remanded in prison.
But the executive vice chairman, ENL, Princess Vicky Hastrup gave an insight into what happened to the detained employees in a telephone chat with our correspondent on Friday.
According to her, the workers who were all engaged at the company’s workshop vandalized expensive machines and sophisticated equipment after shutting barricading the company’s terminals, “because of management decision to outsource the running of our workshop to a separate company”.
Princess Hastrup explained that the workers, who were inherited from the Nigerian Ports Authourity, had become incorrigible and disrespectful to management. “They were stealing machine parts and reselling to the company, their activities were affecting our operations, so we decided to outsource the workshop”, she disclosed.
“They were sabotaging our operations, they would say that machines had broken down, they were collecting bribes from our customers before they could work, these continued for a while before the decision to do something about them”, she added.
According to her, in taking the decision to lay them – off, the MWUN was intimated “and we are still working on how to ensure that some of them can still be employed by the company to which we had contracted the workshop, suddenly they downed tools, moved into the terminal on a Saturday, drove all the container handlers to block all entrances into the terminal, they used about 18 plants to block everywhere”.
She added that “in spite of the fact that they had not spent more than two and half years with us and against all known labour practice, we still agreed to pay them some money ex-gratis”.
On that Saturday, the port manager, Lagos Port Complex was there, so also was the executive director, marine and operations as well as the Police and myself, we begged them not to block the terminals, they refused and they vandalized all the machines”.
Not satisfied, they still came to our corporate head office on Monday to harass staff, at that point, I had to call in the Police to arrest them, it is the Police that arrested them and charged them to court
Shipping Position Weekly scooped last week that the embattled MWUN members were again in the court on November 17 where the judge granted them bail with =N=1Million. We could not confirm as at press time whether the bail conditions have been met by the accused persons.
An e-mail that was sent to Shipping Position Weekly on the face-off between the company and the union and the plight of the “ENL nine” painted a gory picture of the condition of service at the company’s terminal.
The mail also informed that since their remand at the Kirikiri prison, the suspects have been appearing in court in batches and that none of them have been able to meet the bail condition.