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Labour fumes over resistance to unionisation of aviation workers

Stories by Victor Ahiuma-Young

THE Nigerian Constitution, African Charter and Convention 82 of International Labour Organisation, ILO, guarantee workers in the country the right to freely associate or form association, in this case, union to fight for, defend and advance their rights at work places.

•Members of IndustriALL Global Union in Nigeria protesting against precarious jobs including refusal of some employers to allow workers to join unions.

Flowing from this, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, is not finding funny the resistance of unionisation of workers in the aviation sector by some employers and it is not taking it lightly.

This, it made clear at its recent National Executive Council, NEC, meeting with the theme: Enhancing Union-Management Collaboration for Sustainable Growth and Development in the Aviation Industry in Nigeria, in Abuja.

In a communique issued at the end of the meeting by ATSSSAN President and Deputy General Secretary, Ahmadu Ilitrus and Frances Akinjole, respectively, the union said among others: “On the issue of unionisation of workers in the Aviation Industry in Nigeria, ATSSSAN NEC resolved that it will no longer tolerate a situation where airlines and other licensed air transport and allied aviation services providers doing business in the industry deny workers their constitutional rights to freely join unions of their choices in the Aviation Industry. The NEC reminded airlines and other aviation businesses of their obligation in law to comply with the provisions of the extant Labour laws, failing which the NEC mandated the Leadership of ATSSSAN to use all resources within its means to defend the constitutional rights of all aviation workers.

“The NEC charged the    Minister of Labour and Employment and the Minister of State (Aviation) to intervene in this important matter by calling the Chief Executive Officers, CEOs, of all airlines and allied aviation services providers to comply with the laws of the land, by allowing unions free access to organise willing aviation workers. The NEC, therefore, resolved that after six months from the issuance of this communiqué, ATSSSAN will engage any management that does not allow free and unfettered access to unionisation of its workers.”

Airports Concession

On planned concession of some airports by the Federal Government, the communique said: “The NEC expressed strong reservations to the decision of the Federal Government to concession the four major International Airports, (Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Port Harcourt Airport and Aminu Kano Airport, Kano), operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, on the basis that the four airports are the main sources of FAAN’s revenue.

NEC fears that if the government succeeds with the concession of the airports, the entire operations of FAAN will collapse, as all other airports operated by FAAN are maintained or supplemented with revenue generated from the four referenced airports.    “FAAN has huge pension liabilities and will not be able to settle its pension obligations to retirees, Safety at our airports will be compromised. Salaries of the over 6,900 staff scattered around the 22 airports presently managed by FAAN, would be compromised. Concession of airports will lead to high airports charges in the affected airports which will affect airlines, and by direct implication, result in high air ticket prices.

“The NEC advised the Federal Government to look at other successful models of managing airports as been done in South Africa, Egypt, Namibia, Ghana and other civil Aviation jurisdictions around the world. The NEC therefore mandated the leadership of ATSSSAN to keep vigil and that peraventure the government insists on the concession of the airports as planned, ATSSSAN must insist that all labour issues, including workers’ entitlements and pension rights are settled by the government; failing which ATSSSAN shall not guarantee industry peace at our airports.”

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