DOCK WORKERS FIGHT ON TO VICTORY AT THE COURT OF APPEAL
By Davy Fidel
The court judgment of February 20, 2019, ordering the payment of five years of unpaid pension to dockworkers is a victory that came through struggles and solidarity. The Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA), a revolutionary organisation committed to the struggles of workers and the oppressed, is intervening in the struggle of the 584 sack dock workers.
However, the victory ahead of us at the Appeal Court can only be fully realised if we begin to organise beyond the courtroom by commencing a public awareness campaign that will expose the bosses for the exploiters they are and mount the needed public pressure on the court.
It is not going to be easy, because Energy Neftegas Limited (ENL), a billion-dollar company that is benefitting from the deregulation of the Nigerian Ports, under the Obasanjo regime, will continue to use its might as a capitalist organisation to influence the judiciary to ensure that the disengaged workers don’t get their unpaid 10 years minimum-wage that amounts to N6.8 million Naira per worker, including other owed benefits.
Our only chance against the money and influences the management of ENL could throw around is that our case can mobilise other working people in society that will put the judiciary under watch and shame the ENL management for their cruel practices. Under capitalism, the enactment of laws is for the best interest of members of the billionaire club, that is, the ruling elites and the employers of labour, who use anti-labour and sharp practices to victimize workers and deny workers their right to the fair share of the wealth they produce and as well as the right to belong to a union of their choice. This is why we must seek the sympathy, support and solidarity of other working people to put the authorities under the needed pressure of society.
WHAT TO DO
The 584 dock workers were sacked in March 2016 for no just or lawful cause. They have been in a struggle to claim their entitlements and unpaid wages from ENL management for four years, beginning with socialist activists in Ajegunle providing the necessary organizational support first within the framework of the Campaign for Democratic Workers’ Right (CDWR), which then succeeded in organizing them under the Agitating Dock Workers Forum (ADWF) with Barrister ToluwaniAdebiyi as their lawyer.
The struggle must be sustained to the end since it will be a source of inspiration to other thousands of dockworkers that will still be made to suffer even worse working conditions in the docks.
Painfully the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has not deemed it necessary to provide the necessary support or come on board demanding to have all these dockworkers unionised. The excuse that they are not members of the union is not tenable and as such the MSA challenges the Maritime Union to wake to its responsibility, provide the necessary support both logistically and otherwise to not just the sacked ENL dockworkers but to end all forms of casualisation in the port. Interestingly the dockworkers are relying on the agreement signed by the union to continue their struggle against the ENL management, which requires the payment of a particular benchmark of wages for all dockworkers.
Unity is necessary; dockworkers must cease all forms of divisive actions, working together to support and canvass members of the public for the necessary fund to continue to put up appearances in court in large numbers.
But ultimately is the fight against privatisation and deregulation of the Nigerian Ports and a campaign to end the slavery conditions workers are subjected to in these private shipping companies that violate labour laws and human dignity.
Privatisation and deregulation are a by-product of capitalism that keeps ripping workers off, because of the mad drive for profit by profiteers who benefit from such capitalist policies. We fight for renationalization of the Nigerian Ports and that they are placed under workers’ management and control to put an end to the exploitative and inhuman practices of the bosses. Defeating ENL Consortium on this matter and others will also include fighting politically against the policy of the government, whose agenda is to continue to protect the profit of privately-run organizations.
In solidarity, the MSA urges the dockworkers to use their platform, Agitating Dock Workers Forum (ADWF) to call on workers, youth and the trade unions to give solidarity to their four years old struggle. It is by this means that pressure can be mounted on ENL Consortium to pay the N33, 000 minimum wage, which was a Collective Bargaining Agreement reached with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (under Irabor leadership), NPA and NIMASA and signed in May 2008.