(Up Dated)Aviation Unions Occupy Aero Headquarters Over Indefinite Leave, Non Payment Of Salaries, Others
…Says Aero’s Action Is Contrary To Labour Laws, Int’l Conventions
…Vows To Sustain Action If…
Aviation unions comprising of the Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) have taken over the head office of the embattled Aero Contractors at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, which commenced the suspension of Scheduled flights today
Recalled that the management of the airline had stated yesterday that it would commence the indefinite suspension of scheduled flights today, Thursday, September 1, 2016.
Aero, the oldest airline in the country, has been going through hard times trying to survive.
Aero’s problems includes: huge debts, unbridled financial malfeasant, intrusive family squabble in management, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) initial business decisions and weak and ineffective management.
Despite that these problem bedeviling the airline, it has some of the most dedicated staff in the airline industry.
A brief telephone chat with the President of ATSSSAN, Comrade Benjamin Okewu revealed that the take over of the airline followed the indefinite leave given to the over 1,400 workers.
When Abelnews visited Aero head office, the workers led by union leaders were seen in front of the office singing solidarity songs while others were also seen Christian songs asking God to lead the workers in pursuing this case.
Speaking at Aero headquarters, Comrade Okewu stated that what Aero management has just done by locking out the workers was shocking, adding that negotiation was still ongoing when Aero sent workers on indefinite leave.
He stated that some the workers who were on night duty were locked in, pointing to the Chairman of the union in Aero Contractors and others workers, who were watching event from the windows because they were locked in.
He stated that workers decided to take over the airline because the management of the airline sent workers on indefinite leave without paying them their salaries and other entitlements.
The unions, Okewu said will not be taken lightly what Aero’s management has done, adding that under the labour law the company is bound to pay workers their entitlements.
The ATSSAN boss added that the unions are ready for negotiation but that if Aero’s management refuses to talk to aviation unions, the airline’s office will remain shut.
Also speaking, the Assistant General Secretary, NUATE, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, alleged that Aero’s management locked in workers that performed night duty and locked out other workers that had reported for duty.
He posited that what Aero has done was a violation of workers’ rights, adding that the two parties started discussing following attempt by Aero to declare 457 workers redundant, an action he said the unions rejected.
Abioye added that the matter was taken to the Federal Ministry of Labour in Abuja, where Aero was directed to do the needful.
According to him, “My attention was drawn a seeming lock out in Aero contractors this morning and on getting here I noticed that the management of the airline locked out the entire workers of the company and locked in those who did night duty ,who as you can see cannot go home. This is a violation of the right of workers of Aero contractors. How did we get here. Aero was under a receivership.. The unions and the management have been discussing arising from the management intention to declare 457 redundant. We have been negotiating and as much efforts as we have been putting into the negotiation, nothing good has come from the management.”
The NUATE scribe stated that the Labour Law states that even if the airline decides to wind up its operations, it must pay the workers their severance benefits.
“You can imagine a situation where somebody has worked for 15 years will be paid half a month for that numbers of years and with this half month pay here severance benefits cannot be paid until nine months. This was the proposal three at the unions and we told them this proposal is not sellable and that they should look inward and do something more robust. We have been talking .we have been to the Federal Ministry of Labour in Abuja where Aero Management was specifically asked to go back to its drawing board and do the needful .Even if you are liquidation Aero Contractors today, the workers who have worked there are entitled to their severance benefits. That is what the labour law and the international convention says.” Abioye said
On whether the airline is still open for negotiation, Abioye said, “Yes, we are. We have been negotiating before this one happened. Our negotiation has not breakdown. We are very much open for negotiation because we were negotiating before Aero sent the workers on indefinite leave.”
On the allegation that Aero is still selling tickets to intending passengers, the Assistant General Secretary, said, “I am aware that they don’t have interlined agreement with any other local airlines. There is no airline that can take their tickets. Don’t forget that Bi-Courtney drove Aero out of MMA2 because they cannot pay. Aero is hugely indebted to a lot of companies including third party companies.”
Meanwhile, some of the passengers who bought the airline’s tickets were seen at the headquarters complaining to protesting workers of their inability neither fly to their destinations as scheduled by Aero nor collect their refunds.
Abelnews observed that the passengers were telling the workers that they went to the MMA2 terminal where Aero operates from but that there was nobody to attend to them.