November 20, 2015

Virgin Atlantic Airways Nigerian staff protest alleged bias by mgt

By Onozure Dania

Lagos—Nigerian cabin crew members of the Virgin Atlantic Airways have called on the Federal Government  to come to their aid over alleged racial bias and planned sack by the foreign airline.

The cabin crew members through their lawyer, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN, wrote a letter protesting the planned termination of their job by the end of this month.

In the said protest letter dated November 17, 2015 and addressed to the Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited, Sir Richard Branson, Fagbohungbe said that the circumstances surrounding the intended sacking of all the Nigerian members of the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew violated the provisions of the International Labour Conference Convention 158 and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said that the intention of the airline to disengage the 21 Nigerians based on research that it no longer needs cultural expertise on the Lagos route, is a spurious and untenable excuse.

Fagbohungbe further stated that the airline was being unfair to Nigeria as a country by planning to lay off its Nigerian employees despite the fact that the Lagos-London route remains one of, it’s most viable and profitable route of the airline.

He also stated that it was particularly disdainful that the planned sacking of the Nigerians was not in tandem with any reasonable severance package or options like the airline would normally do where citizens of other nations were involved.

According to him, Virgin Atlantic had earlier shut down its call centre in Nigeria and moved it to South Africa thereby compounding the unemployment rate in Nigeria while creating additional jobs for South Africa, despite the profit being made from Nigeria.

He also recalled that the relocation of the call centre had imposed additional costs on Nigerians whose calls for inquiries were now routed to South Africa.

Reacting to the protest of the Nigerian Virgin Atlantic Airways Cabin Crew members over the alleged planned sack the’ Sales Agent in Nigeria, Chief John Adebanjo, dismissed insinuations that the airline was planning to pull out of the country due to harsh operating environment.

He said: ‘’We have decided that we will no longer have crew based in Lagos. This is by no means a reflection on our Lagos-based cabin crew, the primary purpose of our locally based cabin crew has been to provide cultural expertise and customer feedback.  This is no longer a requirement on the Lagos route.

‘’The additional complexity required to operate an international crew base where there are no foreign language requirement means it is no longer sustainable going forward. This announcement has no impact on our flying programme and we plan to continue flights between Lagos and London.”