By Kenneth Ehigiator
The Air TransportÂ Â Â Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) has vowed to resist plans by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to charge its members for use of the access gate linking the domestic to international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
ATSSSAN also said it was only waiting for the outcome of Labour Ministerâ€™s intervention on the refusal of some airlines in the country to allow their workers to unionise before deciding when to picket such airlines.
FAAN had, through its concessionaire, I_Cube West Africa Limited, declared at a recent stakeholdersâ€™ meeting that staff of parastatals in the aviation industry, including FAAN, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), would have to pay N6,000 annually to access the gate.
Similarly, airlines staff, according to FAAN, will be required to each pay N15,000 annually to access the gate, which the concessionaire is automating.
But addressing journalists at a media briefing in Lagos, ATSSSAN President, Comrade Benjamin Okewu, said both FAAN and the concessionaire were on their own on the matter, stressing â€œthere is no way our members can be asked to pay to use the gate.â€
Okewu, who said the union was never invited to the stakeholders forum where the decision was taken, wondreded how industry workers would be expected to pay to do their jobs, especially as the routine of some of the workers involve frequent shuttle from one end of the airport to the other.
â€œWe were not invited for the stakeholders meeting.Â They are doing their own thing and they are on their own.Â It is not possible for workers to pay to access the gate.Â We will resist every move to ask our members to pay to use that gate,â€ Okewu said.
On airlineâ€™s refusal to allow their workers to unionise, the ATSSSAN leader said the affected airlines have refused to yield ground, despite series of meetings the leadership had had with them.
Okewu, who singled out Aerocontractors as the only major domestic carrier that has allowed unionisation of its staff, said the union was also, aside from the outcome of Labour Ministerâ€™s intervention, awaiting the approval of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to declare war on airlines that have proven recalcitrant.
He said:Â â€œÂ The major domestic airlines have frustrated us to unionise their workers.Â We have taken it up with the Labour Minister; we met with him in April and he promised to arbitrate on the matter.
â€œWe are waiting for NLC and TUCâ€™s approval to picket the airlines after the ministerâ€™s judgement on the matter.â€
On Pan Expressâ€™s plans to stage a comeback after losing its concession to collect port charges for FAAN, Okewu said the union would resist any move by the company to return.
According to him, Pan Express could only electronically generate and remit only N5 million to FAAN monthly, whereas FAAN staff now handling the collection are manually generating N60 million to the agencyâ€™s coffers since the company lost its concession.
â€œWe fought for Pan Express to lose its concession due to debts.Â If Pan Express is brought back, there will be immediate strike, especially if due diligence is not followed.
â€œPan Express is paying FAAN only N5 million, even though it did it electronically, when FAAN staff can manually generate N60 million.Â So, how is FAAN missing Pan Express in all of this?â€