Protesting aviation unions who shut down Arik Air operations on Tuesday have called off their industrial action.PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the decision followed an intervention by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The unions had embarked on the joint strike following the airline’s failure to pay seven months’ salary arrears and other alleged anti-labour practices.
They had on Tuesday shut down Arik Air’s flight operations at both the local and international wings of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
They also barricaded the airline’s corporate headquarters within the airport premises. While speaking to journalists, the aviation unions had vowed to continue their protest until the issues raised were addressed.
A representative of the United Labour Congress of Nigeria who spoke on behalf of the electricity union, Olusegun Babatunde, had said that the unions would continue to ground the airlines operations until the issues raised are addressed.
Mr. Babatunde argued that workers should be treated with dignity and should not be enslaved. He also said that the protest would serve as signal to other organisations who do not take care of workers’
“The struggle continues. We are here today; we will be here tomorrow and the day after tomorrow until the issues are addressed and resolved.
“Workers are not slaves and should not be enslaved. Victory is assured,” he had said.
The General Secretary of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, had also vowed that the airline would be grounded until its operators address the grievances raised by the aggrieved workers. He also advised Arik Air’s
passengers to seek alternative by boarding other airlines.
“I advise passengers of Arik air to seek alternative elsewhere. Go and board other airlines. We will be here until further notice,” he said.
However, according to a communique signed by the leadership of the unions on Tuesday, Arik Air management and a representative of the NCAA, the unions agreed to call off the strike after exhaustive
deliberations with the management of Arik Air and the NCAA.
The communique was signed by Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, Air Transport Senior Staff Services
Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).
Others are the General Secretary of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Aba Ocheme, Deputy Managing Director, Arik Air, Ado Sanusi and Sidi Abdullahi of the NCAA.
The communique said that Arik Air, at the meeting, agreed to pay the outstanding October salaries on or before December 23, while that of November would be paid on or before December 31.
“The unions are to submit the acknowledged copies of the letters forwarding membership forms of their prospective members to the NCAA and NCAA shall forward same to the management of Arik Air to do the needful.
“A committee to review the circumstances of all laid-off employees, made up of one member from each union and Arik Air, was constituted, to be inaugurated on Jan. 10, 2017.
“The Hawker fleet employees are exempted from the review,” the communique said.
It added that parties resolved that Arik Air should resume operations forthwith upon signing the communique and that no individual should be victimised as a consequence of the industrial action.
The communique, however, did not address the issue of seven months’ salary arrears staff of the airline said they were being owed.
Earlier, when PREMIUM TIMES spoke with staff of the airlines who joined the protests, they expressed their frustration. A staff who did not want her name in print, said the airline had been notorious in terms of arbitrary tax deductions.
“They deduct my tax without proof. I don’t have certificate. Besides, I have worked here for more than five years and I have never been promoted,” she said.
Another staff who simply identified herself as John said the airline did not recognise unionism. Mr. John added that the pension scheme of the airline was also shady.
“I have worked for eight years with Arik and I can tell you that my pension is around N50,000. For seven months now, I have not received salary. It is very sad.”
The workers had enjoined other unions who came to support them to intensify efforts at ensuring that their demands were met. They also implored the media to beam its searchlight on issues raised by the
Meanwhile, passengers of the airline have decried the situation, lamenting the manner the airline managed the crisis.
Wesley Oruta, a passenger, said he was disappointed in the airline as the strike disrupted his schedule.
Mr. Oruta, who told PREMIUM TIMES he was on his way to Warri, explained that he had no alternative but to go by road.
“I am disappointed. I have no option but to go by road. It is really sad,” he said.
Another passenger who identified herself as Jane also lamented the situation, calling on the airline management to seek immediate solution to the crisis.