The management of Murphy shipping company in Port Harcourt, Rivers State got a bitter taste of what organized labour could do recently when its premises was picketed by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN).
Members of the union’s shipping and courier branch led by its branch chairman, Comrade Ikenna Ajoku and the state secretary, Comrade Hope Mbukpa barricaded the gate of the company as early as 7o,clock in the morning of that fateful day with a bus marked NLC Rivers and prevented any worker, including the security personnel who were on duty from entering or going out of the premises.
The placard – carrying, protesting employees of the company, Nigeria Labour Congress members and Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria members sat outside the gates drumming and singing solidarity songs.
Several placards were used to decorate the front of the company. Some of the placards read, “Deduct and Remit our check – off dues to Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria”, “the union has come to stay, there is no going back”, “we, the junior staff say we are all members of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (shipping/courier branch).
Comrade Ikenna Ajoku while addressing the employees said that the union had to take the action as a last resort because they have tried other approaches with management of Murphy Shipping to get the company to agree with the demands of their workers, but it was all in vain.
He alleged that the management of the company had been depriving its workers of participating in union activities, which according to him, is the workers right. Several times they often renege on agreements reach with them, he emphasized, he alleged further.
Comrade Ajoku expressed surprise that Murphy shipping deliberately tried to misrepresent facts. “How can they allege that only eight persons were willing to participate in unionization in the company? This is contrary to the overwhelming interest shown by the workers to be unionized. We are also unhappy with their plan to downsize. That means the company wants to sack our members after denying the staff opportunity to be members of maritime workers union”, Comrade Ajoku said.
He said that the management of the company will have to enter into fresh memorandum on effecting deductions of workers salary from November 2008 to date. They must also agree not to downsize or sack their members until further notice, stop intimidation of our members and take appropriate action in recognizing the union, he said.
Also speaking Comrade Hope Mbukpa said that the MWUN actions had the support and backing of NLC, Rivers State chapter. “It is not our desire to picket Murphy Shipping, but they have pushed us to the wall, but we hope the matter would be resolved amicably”, he said adding that they have had several meetings with the company but regretted that they seldom respect agreements.