Aviation unions, yesterday, carried out their threat as they shut down Arik Air operations nationwide for owing workers’ salaries since April and other anti-labour practices of the airline. Ninety per cent of the airline’s workforce was placed on compulsory leave since April.
This action has taken a toll on the airline and travellers booked on the carrier were stranded in some of the airports. Staff of the airline and executives of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), protested in front of the GAT One terminal and later proceeded to the headquarters of the airline where they blocked the entrance gate.
Secretary General, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, said they were protesting the ill-treatment of their members during the COVID-19 lockdown. “Management of Arik Air, in a circular, informed the staff that only 20 per cent would be needed during the lockdown with salary payments of 20 per cent to those who would be at home and 50 per cent to those on duty. Unfortunately, till date, they were yet to be paid.
“Workers have no conditions of service at all, not even a review,” he said. Chairman, ATSSSAN, Arik Air Branch, Mr. Innocent Atasie, said that the workers resolved to shut down Arik operations nationwide when all efforts made to resolve the problem failed. The unions said the strike would continue indefinitely, until their demands were met by the management of Arik Air.
Their demands included payment of outstanding salaries arrears, signing of Conditions of Service, remittance of pension, tax, and statutory deductions to the appropriate authorities and to resolve other antilabour issues.
Others were payment of salary arrears of seven months, with a commitment to pay salaries as and when due, henceforth. Stranded Arik Air passengers in Lagos expressed disappointment over the airline’s shutting down without informing the passengers.
A passenger, Mr. Julius Anifowoshe, told NAN that: “I was shocked when I came to the airport at about 6.30a.m., to board and found out that the airline workers are on strike without due notification. “I am forced to buy another ticket from another airline to meet up with my appointment in Abuja. Government should sanction Arik Air for not reaching out through text messages or e-mail to customers on the planned strike,” he said.
Another passenger, Mrs. Beatrice Ikechukwu, expressed disappointment over sudden shut down of the airline’s operations without due notice to passengers. Meanwhile, the management of Arik Air has apologised to its customers whose travel plans were disrupted by the picketing of its operations.
Mr. Adebanji Ola, Manager, Communications of Arik Air, made the apology in a statement in Lagos. Ola said: “We wish to place on record that the picketing was illegal and has no backing of the aviation unions whose leadership has embraced dialogue by attending mediatory meetings called by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). “The management strongly condemns this action….”