•FG must adhere to our terms —Unions
•Why unions’ strike’s unnecessary, unfounded — FG
•Make contingent plans, FAAN advise travellers
Flight operations were yesterday disrupted across the country, following the two-day strike embarked upon by unions in the aviation sector to protest what they described as unpalatable working conditions.
Consequently, both international and local flights were affected, as air travellers could not access the airports.
The traffic gridlock that trailed the aviation unions strike was particularly serious at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The unions involved include the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN; the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, and the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAP.
Vanguard gathered that the union blocked access roads to both the international and domestic wings of major airports in the country.
Travellers had a hard time gaining access to airports across Nigeria, as the unions barricaded all access roads leading to the airport, from Ikeja under bridge, Agege motor road, Oshodi and the access toll gate into the airport.
A similar situation played out in Abuja and some other cities in the country.
Most travellers were seen carrying their luggage on their heads while trekking down to the airport to avoid missing their flights.
Security operatives, including police and military officers, were on the ground as the unions sang solidarity songs.
Most of the airlines had to delay flights to allow travellers meet up with departure to avoid cancellation of flights.
Recall that the meeting between the unions and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, last week had ended in a stalemate, triggering yesterday’s action.
NCAA’s Director-General, Civil Aviation, Capt. Musa Nuhu, had called on the union to shelve their planned two-day warning strike with representatives of the unions in attendance.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, who was also at the meeting, also urged the unions to halt the planned strike.
But the unions disregarded the appeal and insisted on going ahead with their warning strike.
The workers are demanding the approval and implementation of the condition of service (CoS), as agreed between them and the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC, office of the head of civil service of the federation, and other agencies.
Others are the non-implementation of minimum wage consequential adjustments and arrears for the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NiMet, since 2019 and the planned demolition of all the agency buildings in Lagos by the minister of aviation for an airport city project.
In a memo signed by the leadership of the five unions, the workers said an indefinite strike would ensue if the two-day warning strike failed to achieve the desired result.
Speaking during the protest, ANAP Secretary-General, Abdulrasaq Saidu, said it was high time the federal government adhered to their terms.
In his word: “We are tired of the non-responsiveness of the federal government to our grievances. Workers in the aviation sector have had to go through several challenges which had lingered for the past seven years.
“For the past seven years, it is time to free the aviation workers from the yoke of imperialism, bad governance and too much corruption in the industry without addressing workers’ welfare.
“So today, we say, enough is enough and that is why we have this strike. The strike continues tomorrow even if the security authorities get involved. We have no arms, we are civil.”
Similarly, the Deputy General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, said: “As I am talking to you, nothing has changed. If you don’t hear anything from the General Secretary, the strike continues till tomorrow.”
Why aviation unions’ strike’s unnecessary, displeasing —FG
Meanwhile, the federal government has described the strike as unnecessary and unfounded, despite its efforts at meeting the various demands of the workers.
According to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the reasons for the strike are issues that ordinarily should not have amounted to disrupting flight operations and inflicting hardship on the citizens.
He said: “The strike is unnecessary as it will increase the hardship on our citizens, affect flight schedules, lead to economic losses and negatively impact our rating globally. On the grievances prompting the strike by the Unions, these are issues that should not lead to strike.
“The ministry’s move to demolish certain buildings hindering the runway would be beneficial to the general public, adding that if there were any wrangling, it would be best resolved internally.
“The moves taken so far were part of efforts to improve infrastructures, make the country’s airports economically viable, and meet with global standards.
“It should be noted that the planned demolition of certain buildings obstructing the runway is in the public interest and an administrative issue that can be sorted in-house. The Unions should have met with the management of Agencies for alternative accommodation to all affected offices before going ahead with the strike.
“On the Concession of airports, the Unions are aware of global practices and for the Aviation industry in Nigeria to be the hub in Africa, the concession is the way to improve infrastructure and make our airports economically viable as this is without loss of jobs.
“On Conditions of Service in some of the Agencies, it is a work in progress. The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission is already carrying out assessments and will soon conclude.
Make contingency plans, FAAN advise travellers
Reacting to the strike yesterday, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, advised travellers and stakeholders to make contingency plans in order to avoid missing their appointments.
In a statement in Abuja, FAAN said the management of NAIA would open the airport for operation as usual, but warned that passengers might experience “disruptions in flight operations as a result of the strike.”
The agency expressed regret over any inconvenience that passengers might face.
“The management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, wishes to inform the general public of the aviation union’s planned two-day warning strike.
“Intending passengers and stakeholders are kindly advised to make contingency plans in order to avoid missing their flights and appointments. Any inconvenience experienced is highly regretted,” FAAN stated.