APM Terminal which is part of the Maersk Group and operates a container terminal in the Tema Port is in deep conflict with its employees over 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) had not been able to conclude negotiations of 2016 salary review and bonus for 2016.
Information from grapevine sources indicate that the management of APM Terminal and the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union 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%.
Since 23rd July 2016, management and the union had not made a 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.
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 created a lot of frustration for the workers.
The prolonged negotiations on salary review and the inability to conclude negotiations on bonus led to workers embarking on industrial action for about 4 hours on 28th December 2016, a day ahead of a mediation meeting on 29th December 2016.
Workers who spoke to this reporter vented their anger on the management of APM Terminal for maintaining the same position of 15% in the salary review for a long time and transferred the 15% into the annual bonus. When asked about why they could not be patient to go through the mediation process, an angry worker replied, “ 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”.
Majority of the workers complained that though the management of the company complain about a reduction of the business, the company has bought expensive brand new cars for some management staff especially the Human Resource Manager Mr Obed Owusu Asare and the Operations Manager Mr Graham.
“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”.
According to the workers, the amount involved in the 2% difference in the salary review which has become a source of conflict is very small. “The total amount of the 2% difference in the management’s proposal and that of the union for all the 41 workers per month is about $ 400 per month which is less than the weekly allowance of one management staff. Management want to protect its comfort of fat salaries, quarterly bonuses, weekly allowances, expensive cars at the expense of ordinary workers even at a time when they claim the company is in financial crises.
“When we speak out against such unfair treatment, the management of APM Terminal threatens us with dismissals”, an angry worker said.
The management of APM Terminal has issued interdiction letters signed by the Human Resource and Administration Manager Mr Obed Owusu Asare to about 21 workers including the local union executives for participating in illegal industrial action setting the stage for investigations which could lead to the dismissals of all the employees who participated in the industrial action.
Some of the Port workers of Tema indicated that their concern about the attitude of management of APM Terminal towards the workers which create tension and conflicts during salary and bonus negotiations most of the time. “We are all monitoring the situation at APM Terminal and would not hesitate to support our brothers at APM Terminal”, an angry worker of a Shipping company said.
When this reporter contacted the General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, he described management’s actions as unfortunate and not meant to address the issues that form the basis of the conflict.
According to him, management of the company has resorted to reprisals and intimidation to bully the workers into acquiescence. He said that the underlying problem is not the reduction of business but the level of income disparities between the management staff and the ordinary workers which had resulted in unequal distribution of wealth among the different sections of employees.
“The workers have made tremendous sacrifice 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.
APM Terminal is one of the world’s largest port and terminal operators as well as providing cargo support and container inland services. APM Terminals had been hit by strike actions of its employees in Europe especially in Gothenburg in 2016 and in 2015, employees of APM Terminal in Peru’s Port of Callao hub went on an indefinite strike to demand fair and equitable working conditions.
APM Terminal is part of the investment of $ 1.5 billion in the port expansion project at the Tema port.