By DAPO OLAWUNI
A cross section of Nigerian seafarers have raised an alarm over what they described as alleged illegal deductions from their wages by labor unions in collaboration with shipping companies.
The seafarers lamented that even though they don’t belong to the two house unions in charge of seafarers, certain percentage of their salaries were being deducted forcefully.
One of the seafarers who pleaded anonymity alleged that 90% of the HR Managers of the shipping companies have no clue about the sector, and this is making life difficult for seafarers.
The HR Competency is a major disaster in the Nigerian maritime sector and it takes a competent HR to hire a competent crew.
He said “the current forcing of union dues on seafarers is absolutely illegal.
Arbitrary deductions of seafarers earnings by a non consented body is an illegal act”
“Non Remittance of Tax and Pension deductions from Seafarers is illegal”
When contacted by our correspondent, Secretary General of Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Capt Alfred Oniye said is absolutely illegal for shipping companies to deduct check up dues from seafarers who are not members or registered with any of the unions.
He described it as a criminal act which the shipping companies could be jailed for it.
He said the association is already aware of the illegal deductions and is currently looking into some of the cases to ensure that all the monies that the unions have collected is refunded back.
He said “We are already collating the cases, we cannot imagine that seafarers would be out there working and somebody will seat down inside the air-conditioning to start deducting from their salaries when they are not even your members”
“The law says that you can only collect checkup dues from somebody who is your registered member, it is freedom of association, and you cannot force anybody to be a member of your union, it is by choice”
“Any company joining the union to deduct seafarers salaries would pay for it soon because it is a criminal offense.
There is no Act in this country that supersede the Human Right Law, freedom of association is your right, nobody can force you to associate or stop you from associating”
According to him, the agreement the seafarers have signed with the union is what the union use to present to the shipping company where they are working.
“All the monies they have been collecting, we are coming out with a case now and they have to cough it out”
“4% is being deducted from a Captain that is earning N1.5 million and the company would be telling you that if you don’t sign and agree for them to be deducting that 4% from your salary, they would not give you the contract”
“Any company that refuses to sign contract of seafarers because of checkoff dues, we would shut down that company” he vowed
However, speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS, Deputy Secretary General of the Merchant Navy Senior Staff and Water Transporters Association, Comrade John Okpono said one of the seafarers have complained officially to the union over deduction of check up dues.
According to him, the Trade Union Act as well as the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) both recognized the seafarers representative which is the union, from the first stage to the last stage in signing of their contracts with shipping companies.
“For your information, the NJIC Agreement was signed by the union on behalf of the seafarers, the day we signed the NJIC, nobody said the union were not representing the seafarers, all the documents, even to Geneva, ITF, we are the ones that is recognized by them”
“The abandoned seafarers from India, we know the role we played when we approached the court, when some of the seafarers were detained for more than one year, we equally know the role we played, we hired a lawyer and we are treating the case. So, nobody can say that they do not belong to a union”
“The issue of deduction is statutory, seafaring is a chosen career, ones you chose to be a seafarer, you are to comply, the MLC has made the room for them to belong”
“What they need to do now is to join hands with the union in order to better their welfare, it is not optional, when you are employed, it is direct deduction”
“It is an international indiscipline and not done in Nigeria alone, the MLC recognized the CBA onboard every vessel, this means that union presence is compulsory on every vessel” Okpono said