Despite Suspension Of Airline Strike, Aviation Workers Begin Warning Strike
Air travellers were happy after Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) on Sunday, 8th May, resolved to suspend its threat to shut down flights from Monday, 9th May 2020, in their interest and national economy.
Still, their flights might experience hitches as aviation workers nationwide will begin a two-day warning strike to protest the Federal Government’s alleged failure to implement their negotiated conditions of service.
In a statement yesterday, AON explained that it decided to suspend the ‘no flights’ threat following numerous calls from the top personalities in government that promised to urgently intervene in the crises faced by its members.
One of the challenges that informed the threat is the rising cost of JetA1 otherwise known as aviation fuel. A litre of JetA1 currently sells at N700.
The AON statement was signed by its President, Dr Abdulmunaf Yunusa – Sarina; Executive Director, Max Air, Alhaji Shehu Wada; Chairman, United Nigeria Airlines, Dr Obiora Okonkwo Chief Executive Officer, Arik Air; Capt. Roy Ilegbodu; Chief Executive Officer, Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood; Managing Director, Azman Air, Alhaji Faisal Abdulmunaf and Chairman, Air Peace, Chief. Allen Onyema.
The statement reads: “We have also reached this decision with the highest consideration for our esteemed customers who have been faced with uncertainty over the last few days and to enable them to have access to travel to their various destinations for the time being during the period of discussions with relevant authorities.
“In view of the above and in the interest of national economy and security considerations, AON hereby wishes to notify the general public that the earlier announced shutdown of operations on May 9, 2022, is hereby suspended in good faith pending the outcome of hopefully fruitful engagement with government.
Earlier, there was a crack among the operators as seven of them —DANA Air, Arik Air, Green Africa Airways, Overland Airways, Aero Contractors, Arik Air and Ibom Air—said they would not suspend flights.
The decision of the seven carriers was part of the harvest of engagements between their managers and officials of the Ministry of Aviation and other interests in the industry.
Besides, the carriers argued that they had obligations to their passengers who had booked and paid for flights.
Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika, who debunked claims that the now-suspended threat by the airlines was directed at the Federal Government., said a bail-out of N4 billion was given to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, James Odaudu, that the fund was given to the airlines despite their indebtedness to aviation agencies.
The statement reads in part: “ “The minister at various times personally took members of the Association to engage with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sort out issues of access to Foreign Exchange (FOREX) for their operations, and also the NNPC Limited to explore ways of ensuring the availability of Aviation fuel (JET A1) through importation or from the major marketers at affordable prices.
“It should also be recalled that members of the Association were also considered for, and given Bail-out funds to the tune of N4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they remained afloat.
“This was without prejudice to the fact that most of them were heavily indebted to Aviation agencies (as they still are).
We believe that members of the Association are patriots who have continued to bear the brunt of unfavourable global oil market dynamics for which we salute their doggedness.
“As a government, we reiterate our commitment to the continued growth of the aviation industry where airlines and other service providers operate in a conducive, supportive and profitable business environment.”
Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation Smart Adeyemi has however reiterated his call on the Federal Government to financially assist airlines in the country.
Adeyemi said his call became necessary in view of the socio-economic importance of the aviation sector to the country.
”A few months ago, I called for financial support from the Federal Government in view of the socio-economic importance of the aviation sector due to the high cost of aviation fuel and the poor exchange rate of our currency.
“Secondly, the challenges in the aviation industry are huge and about 95 per cent of aviation needs are imported with hard currency.
“They must not be allowed to be tempted to cut corners or risk low fuel level.”
Meanwhile, workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and others have been directed by their unions to stay away from work today and tomorrow.
The National Union of Air Transport Employees ( NUATE), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals as well as the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees had at the weekend issued a special bulletin to workers of aviation agencies to inform them of the warning strike.
The bulletin reads: “Our Unions have no alternative than to embark on an industrial action to press home our demand for justice and equity, especially considering the long-suffering, patience and forbearance on the part of our members which has now reached yield point.”
“Accordingly, all workers in NAMA, NCAA, NiMeT and NCAT are hereby directed to embark on a two-day warning strike on the 9th and 10th of May, 2022.
“Should the warning go unheeded, an indefinite strike shall be called soon after.”