Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen
United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Pilots and Engineers union on Tuesday shut offices of Arik Airlines in Lagos over unpaid seven months salaries of its workers.
The staff displayed placards containing messages communicating their grievances while staging a protest at domestic terminal of Murtala Muhammed airport over the airline’s failure to pay salary arrears and other anti-labour practices.
The Acting Chairman of ULC, Tokunbo Korodo, in an interview in Lagos said that the union could no longer tolerate the inhuman treatment of Arik’s management to workers.
Korodo said that apart from owing workers for seven months, the management of the airline was not remitting taxes of workers to relevant bodies, adding that five executive members of the ULC working in Arik had been sacked.
“We have shut down Arik Airlines operations, due to non-payment of seven months’ salary and non- remittance of workers’ taxes to relevant agencies.
“The office will remain shut until the end of the year, unless the management reaches a compromise with our union on the anti-labour issues.
“We cannot continue to watch Arik Airlines’ management maltreating our members. Enough is enough. It is a pity that many intending passengers are stranded because of our action but we have appealed to the management to look into our demand but to no avail.”
Korodo, who is also South-West Chairman of NUPENG, said that the union had directed tanker drivers to stop supply of aviation fuel to the airline until it resolved the issues.
He said the action was not limited to Arik’s Lagos office, describing the development as a nationwide clampdown on Arik Airlines.
Meanwhile, Arik in a statement signed by its PR & Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola confirmed the incident.
Banji who expressed dismay and disappointment over the development said the representatives of the protesting unions also prevented the staff of the airline from gaining access to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, disabling the checking-in of passengers for both domestic and international flights.
According to him, access to the airport terminals is fundamental to the airline’s operations for movement of its personnel to ready and dispatch our aircraft for various flights.
He said the protest was baseless because Arik Air staffs are not members of any of NAAPE, NUATE) or or ATSSAN.
He explained that the union leadership had earlier written a letter to the management of Arik Air on their grievances and a meeting had been scheduled between the two parties for Wednesday, December 21, 2016.
The unions however did not wait for the scheduled meeting or the outcome of the meeting, before embarking on such disruptive and strong-arm tactics against the airline.
He said, “The unions have demonstrated total disregard for the laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria by interfering in the operations of the airline and preventing airline staff from carrying on with their duties of handling the passengers booked for today’s flights.
“The decision not to join the aviation unions is that of the generality of Arik Air and the management of the airline is not involved in any manner and neither can it influence such individual decisions in any form since Unionism is a free will and not a matter of compulsion.
“Arik Air is appealing to all the Security Agencies, the Minister of Aviation, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and all the other stakeholders in the industry to prevail on these aviation unions to allow for operations to commence immediately since this unjustifiable disruption by the unions has already inconvenienced the travel plans of thousands of passengers today.
“Arik Air sincerely apologise to its esteemed passengers for any inconvenience experienced due to this unwarranted disruption and unlawful action by the unions.”
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