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Industrial unrest looms at Aero Contractors Airline over unpaid terminal benefits

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*as ATSSSAN decries unpaid entitlements to ex- Nigeria Airways staff

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

INDICATIONS of a loom-ing industrial unrest between Organised Labour in the nation’s Aviation sector and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, two years after AMCON took over the management of Aero Contractors Airline and appointed a receiver manager to run the affairs of the airline.

The major grouse of Organised Labour is the perceived refusal of the AMCON management to approve and make resources available for the settlement of arrears of salaries and terminal benefits of staff declared redundant on the directive of AMCON.

File: A cross section of pensioners

Speaking through the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, Labour implored the Minister of Labour and Employment and his Aviation counterpart to call the AMCON management and the Receiver Manager of Aero to order to avoid any disruptions of operations at Aero Contractors Airline.

In a communique at the end of its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting with theme: Enhancing Union-Management Collaboration for Sustainable Growth and Development in the Aviation Industry in Nigeria in Abuja, ATSSSAN President and Deputy General Secretary, Ahmadu Ilitrus and Frances Akinjole, respectively, said: “The NEC frowns at the failure and deliberate frustration by the management of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, of the almost two years old redundancy agreement signed between ATSSSAN and other unions on one hand, and the management of Aero Contractors on the other hand. While the NEC empathises with Aero Contractors management, it posits that the refusal of the AMCON management in Aero to avail approval and the resources for the settlement of arrears of salaries and terminal benefits of staff members declared redundant on the directive of AMCON, is not only inhuman but a breach of the terms of the redundancy agreement. The NEC calls on the Minister of Labour and Employment and his Aviation counterpart to call the AMCON management and the Receiver Manager of Aero to order to avoid any disruptions of operations at Aero Contractors Airlines.”

In the same vein, ATSSSAN in the communique decried the unpaid benefits to former workers and retired staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways warning that the “issue of payment of the Severance Benefits of ex-Nigeria Airways workers must be resolved immediately in order to forestall brewing labour issues that could affect, in the negative, the prospects of the recently unveiled “Nigeria Air” by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The communique said: “NEC-in-session lamented the failure of the Federal Government to settle the outstanding entitlements of ex-workers of Nigeria Airways several years after the airline was liquidated. The NEC appreciated the selfless efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFRN who finally gave approval for the payment of Forty-Five Billion Naira (N45 billion) towards the settlement of the entitlements sometime last year, yet condemns the non-payment as at date.

ATSSSAN NEC warned that if Government does not pay Nigeria Airways workers their hard earned entitlements, it will not guarantee any place for the new airline in the industry. The NEC commiserates with the families of the over 960 Nigeria Airways workers who died in very avoidable health conditions while waiting for their entitlement and wish the souls of the departed workers a peaceful rest and the family they left behind the gratitude to carry on the struggle.”

It will be recalled that not long ago, worried by the protracted issue and rising cases of avoidable deaths of the pensioners, NUP, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE,  Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, petitioned President Buhari, demanding for the release of the severance benefits of the Nigeria Airway pensioners.

In the petition by NUP General Secretary, Elder Actor Zal, NAUTE General Secretary, Olayinka Olu’ Abioye, ATSSSAN Deputy General Secretary, Frances Akinjole and NAAPE General Secretary, Ocheme Aba, dated August 8, the unions copied Minister of State for Aviation, Minister of Finance, Minister of Labour and Employment, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC.

The petitioners pleaded with President Buhari to intervene and ensure the release of the fund for the payment of the benefits before the end of the month.

In the petition titled: Save our souls-Demand for the release of severance benefits for Pensioners of Nigeria Airways, the unions among others, said: “We are compelled by prevailing circumstances arising from the imbroglio which the settlement of the full and final payment to pensioners of the defunct Nigeria airways has become. And it is the considered decision of the industry trade unions to bring the situation to your attention, being assured that your fatherly disposition will bring about a remedy.

“His excellency May wish to note that following national outcry for intervention, your exalted office responded swiftly by approving the payment. That gracious action has unfortunately failed to translate into desired relief for the hapless pensioners simply because the vehicle employed by the ministry of finance for the payment has run into a cul de sac.

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