There is simmering tension between the workers of APM Terminal and management at the Tema Port, putting security of the port at risk.
According to sources, the management’s decision to interdict about 21 workers who were complaining about poor condition of service has incurred the wrath of their colleagues who have decided to solidarized with them by voluntarily joining the strike.
As a result, the management of APM Terminal, which is part of the Maersk Group operating a container terminal at the port, reportedly hit town to engage the services of drivers to handle sensitive machines, including reachstackers and forklifts used in arranging containers from the vessels.
BUSINESS GUIDE gathered that the stand-off heightened because of the prolonged negotiations on salary review for 2016 and bonus.
“After many rounds of negotiations at the close of 2016, the management of APM Terminal and the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union (MDU) failed to conclude negotiations of 2016 salary review and bonus for 2016,” a source said.
“The management of APM Terminal and the MDU, which represents about 41 operational employees of APM Terminal, started salary review negotiations for 2016 on 18th May 2016 with the union’s initial proposal of 40% and management’s proposal of 10%.”
“After some meetings, management increased its position to 15% which it described as a final offer with the reason that its business in Ghana had reduced drastically whilst the union reduced its position to 27.5%.”
The source said that since 23rd July 2016, management and the union had not made any headway in the negotiations which compelled the MDU to make an initial complaint to the National Labour Commission (NLC).
But the parties declared a deadlock in a meeting on the 23rd November 2016 and agreed to refer the case to the NLC.
As a result, the source said, “The MDU reduced its position to 17 % for the salary review of 2016 and 17% of annual salaries of employees as bonus for 2016 whilst management maintained its stand of paying 15% for the salary review and 15% of annual salary as bonus to the unionised employees.”
“The many rounds of negotiations which did not yield any change in management’s position of 15% for the 2016 salary review and the bonus 15% for 2016 bonus up to the end of the year frustrated the workers which led the workers to embark on industrial action for about four hours on 28th December 2016, prior to the mediation meeting on 29th December 2016.
The workers have been venting their spleen on the management of APM Terminal for maintaining its posture.
“How can we be patient when the 2016 salary review and bonus had not been determined as at 27th December 2016. Management staff who earn big salaries had taken 15% of annual salaries as bonus and want to force those of us who earn salaries that are equivalent to $300 to $400 per month to take the same 15% of annual salaries but we do all the donkey work,” the workers fumed.
According to the workers, in spite of the call for austerity by the management, the company had been able to purchase expensive brand new cars for some members of management, saying “How can a company which claims to have drastic reduction of business continue to increase its overhead cost but request the ordinary workers to make sacrifices. The gap between the remuneration of the management staff and the workers is too wide and simply unfair.”
When contacted via telephone, the General Secretary of the MDU Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, said the tactics being employed by the management to intimidate the workers were unfortunate.
“The workers have made tremendous sacrifices to contribute to the high profits of the company and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
“We won’t keep quiet on such injustice no matter the intimidating strategies adopted by management,” he said.
By William Yaw Owusu