Unions in the Aviation Industry have reeled out areas of immediate attention in the Industry saying that Aviation is in a state of emergency.
The unions made this assertion in a recent Press Conference jointly organised by the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigeria Air Transport Professionals (ANAP), in Lagos.
Spokesman of the unions, OChema Aba, while speaking at the Conference, said that the Aviation Industry in Nigeria is plagued with numerous labour issues compelling the unions to raise alarm about an impending implosion and looming.
Aba who is also the General Secretary of NUATE stated that top on the list is the negotiated Conditions of Service of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) which have been lying fallow; wholly or partially unattended by either, or both, the Salaries and Wages Commission and Office of the Head of Service of the Federation for upwards of seven years.
According to him, within that period there ought to have been about three turnovers of the documents rather all efforts, including a personal visit by the Hon. Minister of Aviation to the Commission and numerous communications between the agencies/Ministry of Aviation and the two establishments have failed to impress both the Commission and OHOSF in the above regard.
He noted that the Minimum Wage Act was signed into law and took effect from 1st April, 2020 and that workers in the public service had since 2019 been enjoying the benefits of the reviewed wages. “But, as we speak, only two of six aviation Agencies have implemented the new wage. All efforts on our part to implement the Act in the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), NCAA, FAAN and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) have proven futile so far,” he lamented.
The Secretary General protested the relocation of Headquarters of Agencies, saying the timing for this was inappropriate because of the obvious challenges of COVID-19.
He also lamented that up till now, the Aviation Industry is yet to be impacted by the government approved COVID-19 Intervention Funds despite the fact that it is the most negatively impacted by COVID-19. “As a result, all the aviation companies remain in dire economic straits,” he stressed.
Aba declared that the unions were in vehement opposition to the selective concession of four international airports through a process of apparent compromised integrity. “We have voiced our concerns loudly enough for all to hear, and we have offered credible alternative approaches. But the Minister is going on with the exercise in utter disregard to the position of our unions. We shall not sit idly by and let another PHCN-styled deceit and malfeasance foisted on us all once again,” he said.
He reiterated that in spite of the efforts of the unions and numerous interventions of the Ministry of Labour, most Nigerian airlines have made it impossible for their employees to freely join trade unions of their choice in clear violation of the Constitution of Nigeria and the Labour Act. “These airlines have made the express instruction that the employee cannot belong to a trade union condition precedent to employment in their companies. We have tolerated this travesty for too long. It is now time to end the slavery going on right under our noses in these airlines. We therefore serve notice to all of them that freedom for the employees is not negotiable, and must be obtained by whatever means possible under the law. Air Peace, Azman Air, Dana Air, Max Air, Jed Air, Skypower Airlines, Med-View Airlines and the rest of them should take note,” he said.
The unions Spokesman also pointed out that some aviation concerns have chosen the path of dishonour by hiding behind the pandemic to do havoc to their employees. “While we very much recognise the adverse impact of COVID-19 on aviation businesses, the law and even decency dictate that all parties to the work environment need to put their heads together to chart a common path through the crisis; a path that fairly shares the losses among the component parts of the work environment. Our unions successfully engaged many organisations in this respect. But, many others chose the discredited path of unilateralism and by so doing have done grave injustice and plain wickedness to their employees.
“On this wagon are Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Turkish Airlines, Air Peace, Dana Air, Azman Air, Caverton Helicopters, and many others. In the coming days, these corporate entities will have to contend with the wrath of aviation workers unless they ameliorate their various situations soon enough,” he threatened.
Aba frowned at the fact that as the airports are being opened up for operation there had been no engagement with unions on all the COVID-19 protocols for aviation workplaces in spite of their advocacy on these issues since the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Union Leader noted that tripartism remains the bedrock of industrial relations management in the public sphere with regards to International Labour Organisation (ILO) standard practice but that this principle is completely jettisoned in Nigeria aviation in spite of the unions strident calls to bring it in force in the past three months, especially during this pandemic. “And without tripartism, any effort at industrial harmony is doomed in the sector,” he averred.
Aba announced: “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.
“In the above regard, we use this medium to express our profound appreciation for the intervention by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on these issues. 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.
“This Press Conference is to alert the travelling public and airport users that airport operations might become seriously constrained as a result of actions we are being compelled to take in defense of our hapless members who are being mercilessly and recklessly abused to no end,” Aba announced.