The bosses cannot be trusted, continued mobilisation needed

by Victor Hanson

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The dockworkers strike which commenced on October 22 was called off after 3 days with the signing of a communique by the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Nigeria Ports Authority.

MWUN had mobilised its members to down tools to protest the non-payment of 9 months salaries to tally clerks and on board security men, despite an agreement reached in July for these to be paid. They were also protesting against the use of unregistered non-union members to offload ships mid-stream.

Socialist Worker reported in August that a temporary victory was won in the docks after the union threatened to embark on a strike for the payment of the, as at then, six months backlog of wages of the concerned workers. As we pointed out, the victory was only temporary. The bosses, as it has become clearer now, had no intention of paying the salaries, if they could get away with it. They were merely buying time.

It is clear to bosses that the workers united cannot be defeated. So they do everything within their power to divide the working class. A clear case of attempts to divide workers along lines of nationalities can be seen in the way and manner the mid-stream offloading was done. Most of the workers used as tally clerks and on board security for the offloading were not only non-unionised, they were workers from other countries who were paid a pittance when offshore, close to the Bonny and Lagos ports.

This act is also a crass example of casualization of labour. The struggle of MWUN to ensure the registration of dockworkers aims not only at boosting membership, but as well at turning the tide against casualization and the worst forms of outsourcing of labour in the maritime sector. Such forms of indecent work must be resisted by the union. The union should endeavour to organise those workers that are not yet registered and win them against being used as scabs by the bosses.

While Socialist Worker once again welcomes what appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, dockworkers must be wary of yet another agreement that might be sterile. Once beaten, twice shy. The MWUN President-General, Mr Tony Nted has expressed confidence in the new agreement and assured the NPA that the union would keep its side of the bargain. This is to maintain industrial harmony in the docks. But it was not the dockworkers that broke the earlier agreement, it was the bosses.

MWUN has to continue mobilisation until every single tally clerk and on board security worker is fully paid their wages. Leaflets and posters should be issued to build support for the workers’ cause in the court of public domain. The demands must also include an immediate end to casualization. Decent work is a human right and the denial or delay in payment of wages to workers is out rightly criminal.