Barring any last minute change of plans by the organised labour in the country to shelve the planned general strike over minimum wage increase billed to commence tomorrow, there are probabilities that the plan by labour to shut down airspace may not be total, as international airlines may be given preference to operate into the country
This is just as aviation unions said they empathized with the domestic operators and other business entities in the sector that would be affected by the action of the unions.
The National President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu ,stated this today.
They also said that since their parent bodies have sanctioned it, their affiliates such as the ones in the aviation industry have no option but to comply.
Comrade Illitrus explained that if the tripartite meeting with the Federal Government failed, the unions would obey the directive of the labour centres and shut down the airspace.
The ATSSSAN boss, however, stated that the industry unions were not unmindful of existing Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) arrangements between Nigeria and other countries, whose airlines operate into the country, adding that the issue at hand was a domestic one, which should not be allowed to affect international airline operators.
Speaking further , he recalled that when the fuel pump price was hiked in January 2012, the unions he said allowed international airline operators to reschedule their flights from 6am to 6pm and that if the general strike went on as planned, such treatment may recur.
He said that the reason for allowing international airlines to operate into the country in the past was because some Nigerians caught in the web had travelled into the country for holidays and needed to return to their respective countries to resume work.
ATSSSAN President added that apart from that some had travelled because they had medical appointment overseas.
According to him, “The fact is that we are affiliated to labour centres and we are under obligation to comply with directives. From the strike notice issued so far, we are to shut down by mid-night of today. However, as we speak, the tripartite discussions have resumed; they are in a meeting and our hope is that something good will come out of the meeting so that we will no longer embark on the strike. You know, we are in a very volatile industry. This is our own national problem; we have several bilateral agreements with most foreign nations that their airlines fly into Nigeria. It is our domestic problem. We should not allow it to adversely affect the fortunes of the international operators. We have offered a corridor where we will accommodate them. The major shut down we have had in this industry so far was during the price hike of former President Goodluck Jonathan.”
“You will recall then that in line with our respect for international obligations, we allowed a dispensation wherein the foreign airlines were advised to reschedule their schedules so that they can fly in within 6pm and 6am the following day. We are looking at that.
“We hope the discussions will go on well so that we will not have to go with the plan. We empathise with the industry; however, they must see where we stand that we are under obligations to comply with the directives of trade centres. We are monitoring, waiting and as soon as information comes, we will issue appropriate notices if there is a change of direction as regards area of notice.
“We should be able to reconcile our problem without adversely affecting the international carriers that we have BASAs with. We wish we could extend the same dispensation to the local industry, however, we have sat down in the past and we have argued this out.”