Uche Usim, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
The management of Air Peace Airlines is set to reabsorb some of the pilots it recently sacked following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic following the intervention meeting between its management and the leadership of the National Association of Airline Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) at the instance of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
In the verbal agreement reached at the Minister’s office after the dialogue on Tuesday, Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, acceded to the Minister’s appeal for the recall of a number of pilots the airline can accommodate without sinking.
In their presentation, NAAPE, led by its Chairman, Galadima Abednego, said that some missteps could have been made in the course of the standoff between the airline and the union and appealed to the Minister to intervene in order to resolve the impasse. According to him, it was hurtful for the union to see a large number of their members thrown into the labour market, and further appealed to employers of labour to see the union members as partners, and not adversaries.
In his remarks, the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, expressed sadness and disappointment over what he called the ingratitude of some of the airline’s pilots, after everything that was done to make them comfortable on their jobs.
He recalled how Air Peace had trained over 80 pilots and an equal number of aircraft engineers, giving its staff the best remuneration package within the sector only for them to disappoint at a time their understanding was needed.
He however commended Senator Hadi Sirika for providing the required leadership to the industry and promised his full cooperation in ensuring the growth of the aviation sector in Nigeria.
The Aviation Minister in his remarks called for the understanding of everyone, especially the Labour unions, of the prevailing situation in the aviation industry, saying it was not the time for unnecessary upheavals.
He commended Onyema for his enormous contributions in developing the industry, but appealed to him to recall the maximum number of the sacked pilots that the airline can comfortably accommodate in the prevailing circumstances to which airline operators agreed.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) has said that it will shut down business activities at Arik Air on August 17th, 2020 over salary arrears and staff layoff.
In a notice to all staff of Arik Air signed by NUATE’s General Secretary, Ocheme Aba and ATSSSAN’s Deputy General Secretary, Frances Akinjole, the union leaders said the strike will commence on the said date unless the issues at stake are resolved before then.
Among the issues in contention is the fact that there has been no payment of staff salaries in the airline since April after placing 90 percent of the workforce on compulsory leave.
The letter dated August 10, read: “Subsequent to the failure of Arik Air to address the issues raised in the 15-day ultimatum our unions issued to the airline since July 21, 2020 and realising that the window of the 15-day came to an end on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, we are now left with no choice than to inform the management of Arik Air that there is going to be a total withdrawal of services from the airline from the next seven days.
“All staff of Arik Air are therefore notified that from the 17th of August, 2020 all workers should down tools and assemble at places designated by union officials to be guided appropriately. The notice shall remain in force until otherwise directed by our union, “the notice read.