Dockers/Seafarers’ Well-being: MWUN charges Port terminals on adherence to protective protocols

The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has charged port terminals to make regular provisions to ensure adherence to protective protocols at work sites. President General of the MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, warned in this interview that the terminals must also work out modalities to maintain social distancing in order to protect the worker as much as possible.

Speaking on the overall wellbeing of the workers, particularly at this time of the COVID-19 when they have remained frontline workers, Adeyanju said a visit by members of the COVID-19 Committee on Ports to the workers at the ports would go a long way to encouraging them.

What should be the standard provisions made by employers to ensure safety and protection for the maritime workers, particularly during this COVID-19 period?

I think safety starts from the home. If you look round at all the port environ today, thinking in terms of safety, you will readily pick APM Terminals as number one, while the other terminals follow.

But, they should not wait until a pandemic before introducing safety for workers in the workplace. A school of thought has told us so many things this recent times when we visited some terminals. If you see the way and manner some dockworkers are being kitted, it is nothing to write home about; the coverall, the safety boots, the helmet, the nose cover. Even the hand sanitizer we are talking about, the workers have to buy it on their own, instead of the management buying it for them. I think we should not wait for this kind of emergency at hand before we go into safety.

Is it satisfactory considering what you have seen on ground where the dockers work and what the acceptable work environment standards should be at this time?

I cannot say whether or not that we are satisfied. But, the level is like 50 per cent satisfactory. I cannot say that because one finger is bad then you condemn others. There are some of the terminal operators who have proven to be equal to the task, their terminals are very neat. In terms of the safety we are talking about, they take it as priority. That is what I expected of other terminals to do. PTOL has shown anti-worker behaviour; not taking care of their workers. As far as this pandemic is ravaging the whole world now, to provide them coverall, nose cover, they cannot.

Post COVID-19, what would be your own new normal as regards what you want to see for dockworkers?

It is not dockworkers alone. It should be all workers. With this period that there had been deaths resulting from COVID-19, everybody has taken it seriously that there is need to improve hygiene practices. Until now, people didn’t wear masks to cover their faces and noses. But that has changed now, people now wear mask for protection. I believe that after the episode, we should continue it. It is very important that we should adhere to safety regulations by health professionals. We have been having enlightenment programmes with the dockworkers in the last four weeks, going from one port to the other. We want the government to also focus on the lives of the worker, the dockworkers, and the seafarers.

The COVID-19 Committee, how many times have the members visited the dockworkers, how many times have they visited the ports? You cannot sit down in the office and having meetings with stakeholders. You need to practicalise it by way of visiting these workers. Go to terminals where they do bulk cargo operations and have close to 500 workers every day, how do you observe social distancing they are taking about? So, modalities must be worked out and full PPEs provided always, to keep the dockworkers safe. But, at PTML, where they have containerized operations, you can observe social distancing that is being talked about.

This has taught everybody a lesson that we must take hygiene more serious and maintain healthy environment. The government should come in and ensure increased awareness about COVID-19 among the dockworkers and seafarers. The workers only see these talks in the media, and as we go to them every day. How many of the COVID-19 committee members have visited to say ok, let us go in and see what is happening in any of the terminal. That could be used as an example to ascertain how they are observing social distancing. Cleanliness should be for everybody as it stands today.

What is the cost of a dockworker’s wellbeing?

A good worker is the one that is well equipped, well remunerated and has great empowerment and you expect him to perform, and he is doing a good job for you. But, in the course of the pandemic today, you now say that you will cut their pay. Would you expect any good thing to come form that worker anymore? The productivity as a result of the empowerment that you had given him before would reduce, because his mind is fixed on the threats of downsizing, pay cut, and leave denial. He would not be able to perform excellently like he used to do before. And that was why we raised the message to the world that there are some wicked employers of labour who do not have the heart of the worker in their thoughts. They should not use the situation to be mean to the worker.

A worker is confident and happy and able to give his best when he knows he is protected and on all fronts.

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