Arik Air has announced that 300 members of its staff would be made redundant barely 24 hours after the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) grounded the airline and disrupted its operations nationwide over workers condition of service.
The airline’s Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola said that the decision of the management was due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its operations.
He said the pandemic caused serious financial constraints which caused the inability of the airline to carry out costly maintainance and return its planes to operations, while its revenue nosedived.
He said that the decision to let go of staff was a difficult one even as the leadership of NUATE was about to commence a meeting convened by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at its Aviation House at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos
“Stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leaderships of the impacted unions have been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff. It is important to note that over 50 per cent of Arik Air’s workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months on a base allowance,” Ola said.
Reacting to the development, the General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, said the union would discuss the redundant packages for its members with the airline.
He explained that NCAA had called for a meeting on Friday morning, which he said the union would attend.
“They have invited us to discuss the matter. We will listen to them. It is up to them to determine if workers are surplus to requirement. It is their right under the law. We will listen to their presentation on it and we will take it up from there. We are going for the meeting now at NCAA,” Aba said.
The management of the airline and the union have been at logger heads for more than a year.
On Thursday, December 3, the union grounded the activities of the airline on its ongoing demand of improved welfare to its members.
Passengers hoping to fly to their various destinations aboard Air Air were stranded as NUATE withdrew their services from the airline indefinitely.
The union accused the airline which has been under receivership by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), of failing to sign condition of service and recalling furloughed staff and the interventions by both the Ministers of Aviation Hadi Siriki and Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige, have not yielded any positive result.
In a letter dated Tuesday, December 2, signed by Aba, addressed to all Arik Staff and copied to the Commissioner of Police, Airport Commands, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Director of State Security Service,MMIA and Airport Chief of Security, MMIA, the union directed its members to withdraw their services to the airline till further notice.
The Sun had previously reported how the shutting down of operations at the headquarters of Arik Air by the aviation unions on September 14, caused the airline to lose over N50 million.
A senior management source exclusively revealed to The Sun that the airline operates an average of 28 flights and flies a minimum of 2000 passengers on a daily basis. The minimum cost of economy flights is about N25, 000, bringing the total daily revenue to a minimum of N50m.
On Monday, September 14, NUATE and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) completely grounded operations in Arik Air over disagreement with the management of the airline over non- payment of salaries and other conditions of service, leaving passengers stranded.
Aba said the action became necessary following the refusal of the airline to include payment of the balance of the staff salaries both for those who worked and at home during the period of the lockdown.
According to him, a circular by the Arik Air Management informed the staff during the lockdown that only 20% of staff were needed at work and promised that the 80% sent on compulsory leave would be paid 20% salaries when those on duty would be paid 50% salaries. Aba said the management only paid one month salary and till date, nothing had been paid to both those who were at work and those at home.
“First of all these decisions were taken unilaterally and based on labour practice, every decision that would affect payment of workers has to be negotiated. There has to be a collective bargaining agreement, that’s the labour and yet they didn’t even keep to that promise. For people who were even coming to work, they were paying them less than 50% of their salaries and the people at home whom they say they were going to pay 20%, they didn’t pay. They paid for only one month and thereafter nothing again till date,” Aba said.