May 30, 2023

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You can’t stop workers from union membership, MWUN, ITF warn Lekki port operators

…say over 60% of maritime workers engaged at facility

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) have warned the management of Lekki Deep seaport over moves to prevent workers at the port from unionisation.

President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju and ITF Dockers Section Coordinator, Enrico Totorlani both gave the warning during a working visit to the Lekki port in Lagos on Tuesday.

You can't stop workers from union membership, MWUN, ITF warn Lekki port operators
President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju (3rd from left); ITF Dockers Section Coordinator, Enrico Totorlano, and other ITF officials during the visit to the Lekki Deep seaport in Lagos on Tuesday.

Environmental Manager, Lekki port, Adurayemi Ogundele had while highlighting some features of the port stated that there might not be room for unionism at the port as enshrined in the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) Act under which the port being in a free zone operates.

He said, “By the NEPZA Act for free zones, there is nothing like unionism. As I speak, I have spent 10 years here and I have never heard of unionism even before I joined. I don’t know how this would be worked out because we don’t  make policies. NEPZA has its own guidelines  but for now, there is nothing like unionism in the free zone according to the Act.”

Reacting to the statement, Adeyanju argued that the power to unionize workers falls under the purview of the maritime workers union of Nigeria. He warned that the union will not hesitate to spoil for war if the Lekki port management refuses workers unionisation at the port.

He said, “A port is a port.There is nothing like a free zone when it comes to unionization. of workers and it is good that you have said what you have in mind against unionising our members in the port when the operation starts. I think it is better for me to prepare for war against those who don’t want the workers to be unionised.

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“Port operations belong to the workers and they must be unionised. We have Intels Nigeria Limited, are they not under free zone but we have maritime workers union of Nigeria that are working there. So if you trying to exempt this new port from any union, it is not going to work,”

Adeyanju said about 60 percent of workers engaged by the Lekki Free Port Terminal are members of the union from the dockworkers, NPA and shipping branch respectively, insisting that there is no point saying there won’t be room for unionism at the port.

He added, “The Lekki port is going to create more employment for Nigerians and there is going to be competition between the old ports in Apapa and the new one in Lekki. But for us as a labour union, we are happy to have the Lekki port commence operation soon.

On his part, ITF Docker Section Coordinator, Enrico Totorlano, stated that the only way to enable workers make their voices heard is through membership of the union.

“The Lekki port must be fully unionised for workers at the port. For key issues like safety, there is a need to make sure that workers have a voice in the planning of the port because multi agency actors are there, the truck drivers coming in and all sorts of employers entering the port and it is very dangerous.

“Ports are complex places and the only way to make workers truly safe is to speak and give a voice to the people who work there and see things everyday.

“What is actually clear to ITF is that every port must be unionised. The dockers must have a union representing them and the union leadership has made that very clear and that will happen and have the support of ITF to do that,” he said.

 

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