NJIC: Beyond Table Talk and Wages
With the conclusion of discussions between management team of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and labour leaders led by the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, hopes are high that the cherished industry harmony pervading the industry could be sustained in perpetuity.
Coming as the second of the biennial meeting held under the Dr. Basih Jamoh led management of NIMASA, the Tripartite National Joint Industrial Council, NJIC, seeks to find answers to labour issues, address workers’ agitations and reach acceptable agreements on the welfare of maritime work force in terms of wages and working conditions.
The first of the of National Joint Industrial Council, NJIC and Collective Bargaining Agreement meeting under the present management of NIMASA was held in August 2020 with notable labour leaders in attendance.
Curiously, weeks to the recent meeting of the NJIC, management of the APM terminal in Lagos, which prides itself as Nigeria largest cargo handling terminal were at daggers drawn with its workers on issues bothering on welfare and wages.
The protracted disagreement led to the shutdown of the terminal for days. It took the intervention of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hon. Emmanuel Jime and other concerned maritime stakeholder for the siege on APMT by the leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, to be pulled back.
One wonders if APMT has been part of discussions at the NJIC. If not why not and if yes what led to the recent industrial dispute between the terminal and its workers?
Is it possible that NIMASA lacks follow up on implementation of resolutions reached at the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement?
Is it possible that APMT is not at table during NJIC meetings and not bound by Collective Bargaining Agreement reached?
Undoubtedly, issues of industrial unrests have waned considerably in recent years. In the past, agitations by labour leaders and their followers were a regular occurrence. Therefore, there is something that the NJIC is doing right which must be sustained.
Notwithstanding, beyond the table talk and issues of remuneration for workers, there are serious issues of manpower affecting the industry which must be looked into if economic projections are to realized.
The issue of Nigerian seafarers being rejected by shipping companies within and outside Nigeria because of the quality and global acceptability of certificates issued by NIMASA must be looked into.
Only recently, NIMASA approved an additional $2,000 dollars for each of its cadets studying abroad under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).
Announcing the additional funding, the NIMASA Director General said “We are not unmindful of the unforeseen global inflationary trend which has affected the cost of sustaining our cadets who are on sponsorship in some schools under the NSDP programme”.
“Though NIMASA paid the tuition fee, examination fee and the original cost of feeding and accommodation in full, with allowance for extra funds as pocket money, it’s obvious that cost of living has increased particularly in the Philippines due to the global inflation”.
“We have put in place immediate and long term arrangements to minimize the effect of inflation on their living standard during the programme. The Management of the Agency has approved an additional $2,000 dollars for each cadet, as extra fund due to inflation. This is a short term measure to cushion the effect of inflation on the NSDP Cadets” Jamoh said
How this additional fund for the Cadets impact their studies remains to be seen as tales of woe by unemployed NSDP graduates have been told repeatedly even as concerns over the percentage of failures recorded for Nigerian seafarers who sit for the Certificate of Competency, CoC, examination annually remain worrisome.
Maritime stakeholders are of the view that there is a disconnect between the NSDP programme and reality of the Nigerian situation.
Speaking on the lacuna, the Rector of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Commodore Duja Effedua observed “We have discussed and reached agreement that some of the NSDP candidates can be trained here in our Academy. We do not have the capacity to absorb all they want to train so they will still train some abroad. When these cadets graduate and everything goes super well, there will still be a disconnect”
“That disconnect is the absence of a national carrier. This is important because nobody will give slots to your own cadets when they have their own problems to grapple with. We need national carriers. We have enough cargo. They carry gas from here; there are many things we export. We can bring up some laws that give us a percentage to carry some of our products out of this country to wherever they are needed. Our National carriers will not be idle. Nigerian Ship owners should be given the opportunities to carry out some of these tasks”, the Rector said.
Clearly, beyond the NJIC and CBA, capacity building and deployment of competences to areas of need are issues, in our view, of domineering importance over comfort in Nigeria’s maritime industry.