Arik Describes Picketing Of Its Office Illegal, As Unions Ground Airline’s Operations
… We Grounded Airline For Not Meeting Our Demands –Unions
… Says It Was Carried Out By ‘Disgruntled’ Staff
…Apologises To Passengers Over Flights Disruption
The management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has described the picketing of its headquarters today by persons he called ‘disgruntled’ staff as illegal and was not backed by aviation unions.
This is just as it apologised to its customers, whose travel plans were disrupted by some ‘disgruntled’ staff today.
The Manager, PR & Communications, Adebanji Ola stated this in a statement he made available to journalists today.
He explained that already the leadership of the unions have agreed to be part of the meeting fixed for tomorrow by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA).
“We wish to place on record that the picketing was illegal and has no backing of the aviation unions whose leadership have embraced dialogue by attending mediatory meetings called for Tuesday, September 15, 2020 by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“The management strongly condemns this action and once again assures all stakeholders of a safe and conducive working environment. We shall also protect the interest of the flying public for a safe, friendly and on time travelling experience.
“We are already working with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Aviation and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to resolve all pending issues with the unions and a section of the staff.
Arik Air advised customers with valid tickets, who could not fly today can modify such tickets at no cost for future travels, assuring that the management was working to bring the situation under control and the public would be advised accordingly.
Arik Air had in a letter last week signed by the Managing Director of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, asked the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika to intervene .
“The only outstanding area of difference is the request by the unions for a terminal benefit scheme over and above the requirements of the Pension Act.
“They request for an independent retirement benefit scheme that will be wholly funded by the airline where retiring, resigning and terminated staff will receive a lump sum payment upon exit that will in some cases double the joint contribution of management and staff under the Pension Act of 2004 as amended.”
“ While it is the right of staff to share in the prosperity of a company, the request for an additional retirement scheme from a loss making company, in receivership and whose operations are supported by creditors over and above legal requirements is simply onerous.”
“Given the cost driven challenges in the aviation sector that have seen the majority of airlines fold up in the past years, the request by the unions will set an unsustainable standard for other airlines that are struggling to survive in these difficult times. Notwithstanding, management restates its commitment to appropriate staff welfare and will do its best to keep workers motivated within the limit of available resources.”
“We can report with much gratitude that financial creditors have all suspended demands for repayment to ensure the stability of the airline. We are also enjoying the support of fuel suppliers, aircraft parts suppliers and various Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul organizations (MRO) while carefully managing the COVID19 challenge. This is the kind of understanding and support we urge all our staff to imbibe so that we can ride the times and soar.”
“Honorable Minister Sir, we thank the umbrella body for Pilots and Engineers, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the vast majority of staff for their understanding and cooperation as we navigate the post COVID challenges. While we appeal that you intervene in seeking for the understanding and cooperation of the workers’ unions, we remain committed to protecting the airline and assure our stakeholders of a safe and conducive working environment. We shall also protect the interest of the flying public for a safe, friendly and on time travelling experience,” the letter reads.
Earlier today, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) shut down the operations of the airline, which led to the cancellation and rescheduling of flights.
The disruption of flights also led to passengers stranded at the different airports in the country, with however plans by the airline to rescheduled them.
At the early hours the unions block the entrance of Arik Air with their vehicles and placards carrying members all lined up at the gate.
Some of the inscription reads, “Modern slavery in Arik Air LTD, We say No to slavery, Every workers have rights to working conditions which respects his safety, health and dignity”.
The unions said they decided to ground the airline due to the inability of the airline’s management to resolve the issues in contention such as half salaries that were paid the staff and resumption of discussions on the Conditions of Service(CoS) .
Speaking on the unions action, the General Secretary, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, stated that the unions had do what they did because the airline refused to yield to the unions demands
The NUATE scribe the unions demands that led to the disruption of Arik Air’s operations include: non payment of the balance of the staff salaries both for those who worked and at home during the period of the lockdown and CoS
Speaking further, he said that Arik Air only paid only one month to both those who were at work and those at home.
”First of all these decisions were taken unilaterally and based on labour practice every decision that would affect in terms of payment of the workers has to be negotiated, there has to be a collective bargaining agreement, that’s the labour and yet they didn’t even keep to that promise.
” For people who were even coming to work they were paying them less than 50 per cent of their salaries who were struggling on their own to find their way to work during that period of lockdown go businesses for which they were making more than normal money and the people at home whom they say they were going to pay 20 per cent they didn’t pay, they paid for only one month and thereafter nothing again till date,” the NUATE scribe said.