…Says ‘We were Not Carried Along’
Barely one month after the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to review the wages and welfare of seafarers in the country, the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria has rejected the agreement.
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS in Apapa Lagos yesterday, Secretary General of the association, Capt Alfred Oniye said that the seafarers were not represented or consulted in the process that led to the signing, hence the agreement is not implementable.
The seafarers also made a case for shipping companies and ship owners operating in Nigeria, saying that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has not created an enabling environment for them to thrive in their business pay good money to seafarers.
The seafarers disowned the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association who were both present at the signing of the agreement which was midwifed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) saying that the two unions do not speak for the interest of Nigerian seafarers.
Capt Oniye said that the genuinely practicing seafarers in Nigeria are not happy about the CBA, adding that some of them numbering over 700 are already warming up to stage a protest against the agreement.
Speaking, he questioned that “Who were the shipping companies involved in signing the agreement, who were the seafarers involved in signing the agreement, you cannot skin a mans head in his absence, you are negotiating on my behalf while I am the one doing the job. The seafarers are not involved in this CBA and this agreement has a lot to do with the seafarers themselves”
“The union that were there, are they seafarers? Were they representing seafarers? They claim to be representing the seafarers but the seafarers do not agree they are representing them. We have a platform for professional seafarers, we call it; Maritime Professional Forum, we have over 700 professional seafarers there registered, we have Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, poorly for seafarers”
“Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) cannot represent seafarers, Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association cannot represent seafarers, it is an association of merchant navy officers, and seafaring has to do with both officers and ratings, among these union members, how many of them are still sailing? You cannot expect seafarers that are not fully involved or carried along to dance along to this agreement, this is just a political game that cannot work”
“Let me be sincere with you, some seafarers are already warming up because they are going to question that CBA”
“The law says that you cannot fight for anybody that is not your member, it is freedom of association, it is when you belong to the association that their law will govern you”
“This is a game of interest and people who are concerned, it should not be a political gimmick, if you had carried the seafarers along, they won’t tell you they are not complying”
Capt Oniye however agreed that a review of seafarers wages in Nigeria is long overdue. He however added that the CBA signed recently will only address some people’s selfish interest, and that it is not in seafarers interest.
“The CBA as signed is not going to change anything, I have looked into it, I have asked seafarers and what they kept saying is that they were not carried along to state their own position, I can tell you that 70% of the shipping companies will not dance to it”
The Merchant Seafarers Association scribe also made a case for shipping companies and ship owners operating in Nigeria, saying that the federal government has failed to create an enabling environment for them to thrive in their business.
He said that this has made it increasingly difficult for shipowners to make money and pay good wages to their seafarers.
He argued that “The way we talk about the suffering of seafarers is the same way I want us to talk about the suffering of some shipping companies, some of the government policies are not really helping them, the government is not really giving them an enabling environment for their business to survive, it has gotten to a state whereby as a shipping company operating on Nigerian waters, if you don’t get yourself involved in illegal jobs, you cannot float, you need illegality to float because the legal is being frustrated”
“You cannot ask someone who gets one contract in a year not to feed his crew and pay their salaries, there is a thin line between legal and illegal jobs on Nigerian waters”
“The reason why the Nigerian ship owners cannot pay the standard of ITF and ILO is because, when a foreign vessel is handling a contract locally, they pay him N100million, but when they give the same contract to our local vessel, they will reduce it to N10million, they should ask NIMASA, they are not helping the shipping companies and yet you expect them to pay”