The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) have said it has become necessary to notify the Federal Government, employers in the industry and the public that airport operations might become seriously constrained as a result of actions it is being compelled to take in defence of its members who have been laid off from work.
At a joint press conference held in Lagos on Wednesday, August 12, the General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, the Deputy General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, and the Secretary General of ANAP, Abdulrazaq Saidu, claimed that aviation’s industrial space has become ‘severely fouled by extreme wickedness to employees, disrespect to labour laws and utter disregard to labour relations practices by employers and government’ and that there is a compelling need for them to take actions against the assaults on the rights of aviation workers throughout Nigeria.
Among the issues enumerated, the unions claimed that more than 80% of the aviation workforce in the private sector who have been furloughed for the past four months remain in penury while another chunk of workers have been coping with half or less salary within the period but said that these same workers are expected to return to work until the companies are able to pay salaries.
The unions accused airlines of making it impossible for their employees to freely join trade unions of their choosing, saying it is in clear violation of the Constitution of Nigeria and the Labour Act. They said in view of this, they have served notices to airlines like Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Turkish Airlines, Air Peace, Dana Air, Azman Air, Caverton Helicopters, and others and that in the coming days, the airlines will ‘have to contend with the wrath of aviation workers unless they ameliorate their various situations soon enough.’
They also said that the negotiated conditions of service in most of the agencies have been lying fallow for over seven years and that the Minimum Wage Act which was signed into law and took effect from April 1, 2020 has not been implemented by most of the agencies.
On the relocation of agencies to Abuja, the unions said they pointed at the present crisis of COVID-19, the absence of budgetary provision for most, if not all the agencies in the current budget cycle, the unavailability of office buildings in Abuja, the absence of any real pressure to do so, and other extenuating circumstances which they had hoped would cause a change of strategy to a more pragmatic approach.
The unions also said they are in vehement opposition to what they say is the selective concession of four international airports through a process of ‘compromised integrity.’ They said they have voiced their concerns and offered credible alternatives but that the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika is going on with the exercise. They however vowed that they not ‘sit idly and let another PHCN-styled deceit and malfeasance be foisted on them again.’
They then proffered solutions saying: “The government should establish national and tripartite aviation bodies of labour, government and employer representatives to develop strategies, coordinate investment and financial responses, plan the supply of labour, and oversee all aviation operations.
“Extend sick leave entitlements, maintain incomes and extend social protections to all workers, including formal, precarious and informal workers, regardless of status of employment and reduce subcontracting and outsourcing services and jobs and, where appropriate, mandate airport authorities to directly manage and/or employ all airport staff, including outsourced and agency workers, cleaners, etc.
“The government should offer conditional relief and support services to airlines, airport authorities and supply chain companies, including through debt relief, delays to tax and duties, and public ownership of shares; agree conditions for these financial and support packages, including on the private repurchase of shares following the recovery of the industry that: Protects the pay, terms, conditions and welfare of all aviation workers.
“In the light of the foregoing, we find it necessary and expedient to notify the government, all employers in the industry, airport users and the general public that aviation’s industrial space has become severely fouled by extreme wickedness to employees, disrespect to labour laws, and utter disregard to cherished labour relations practices by employers and government. There is therefore, a compelling need for our unions to take decisive actions against these unpardonable assaults on the rights and sensibilities of aviation workers throughout Nigeria.
“Accordingly, we shall be moved to apply maximum might of our unions combined, with the full support of NLC and TUC, in dealing with the various nefarious activities by individual aviation companies, agencies and establishments, each according to individual letters they will receive from us severally or jointly. Importantly, we equally serve notice hereby that our unions will give full effect to the two weeks ultimatum given by the NLC to the various entities to comply with labour laws or face the consequences of their actions,” the unions said.