…..protesting staff block access road to MMIA
The National Union of Air Transport Employees NUATE says there will no retreat, no surrender on its quest to get justice for its members in Caverton Helicopters Limited.
Members of its branch who embarked on a peaceful protest at the headquarters of the company to press for the payment of its benefits after disengagement from the company were arrested and beaten on Monday by men of the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad alleged to have been sent by the management to disperse them.
Narrating what happened, Chairman of the Caverton branch, Comrade Tony Ibibe who had a bandage wraped around his head and hand said, the RRS men arrive the area with 8 trucks with guns to inquire their presence at the office and after explanation, they left promising that they would come back if they found out that they were illegally there.
He said an hour later, they came back with 6 trucks and a Black Maria to the venue of the peaceful protest to pick them up.
According to him, he was beaten while struggling to stop them from pushing him into the black Maria van along with 9 others whom were forced into the van.
“In the process they hit me on the head and my legs, and they took my phone, keys, one leg of my shoe, face cap, money, wallet and sound system”.
According to him, they were given the letter on the 7th of February and instructed to drop all company property with them on the 29th of March as their services were no longer required and promised that the on the 31st, all their entitlements would be paid but unfortunately the terms of agreement was not followed.
“Till date, they have not paid in full, some people were not paid, some people were paid, those that were paid was half payment, they short pay them, the calculations were wrong, no breakdown, they did not follow the terms of agreement, a lot of letters have been sent to them no response, we decided to picket the company, we followed due process in the picketing all protocol was observed and the area commander was aware of the picketing”.
The redundancy letter was said to have been issued to some staffs in Lagos, in operations, technical and others and all staffs in Warri and Port Harcourt operations were also affected.
After the incident yesterday, members of the union converged on their national Secretariat today and later proceeded to the toll gate and blocked the access road leading to Caverton Helicopters headquarters at the the Murtala Mohammed International airport.
This led to a traffic gridlock at the Lagos Airport spilling over to the domestic wing chanting solidarity songs and carrying placards with different inscriptions.
The traffic situation became chaotic as passengers, motorists and other road users were trapped in their vehicles as there was no way out of the quagmire.
Comrade Paul Igene, Lagos state Chairman of NUATE, later arrived the scene after a meeting with the Commissioner Airport Command to appeal to his members to sheath their swords and vacant the road as the matter was being handed in the highest quarters.
He said it was the presidency that ordered the evacuation of its members from the Caverton premises yesterday because it was threat to security at the airport.
He added that because the Vice President would be visiting later tomorrow, they do not want ant problem around the area.
“It is because the VP is visiting Lagos and he will be in Lagos for about four days, so, it is his security they want to ensure”. It is not Caverton that reported the issue, it is the presidency”.
“The commissioner has ordered the immediately release of our members arrested, I have asked our secretary to prepare paper for their bail”.
In an interview with the 1st National Deputy President of NUATE, Comrade Markus Moses Ogil, when the management decided to embark on redundancy, it was agreed with the union that immediately they were disengaged, all their entitlements would be paid but unfortunately, they went ahead and disengaged the workers with being paid.
He said they have explained to them what the labour law says regarding redundancy but the Caverton management had refused to obey the law.
“We have talked to them on why they should not go against the labour laws, our members were laid off without following due process, when we engaged them, we took a line of reconciliation, which we say this people if you are going to lay them off lets engage ourselves in what we call redundancy arrangement which was never respected and after so many notice that this was the right thing to be done, the management were indifferent”.
Comrade Moses emphasized after an agreement was reached, the management failed to do what was agreed that is paying the staff before they were disengaged.
“The law about redundancy agreement when it is agreed upon is that it should be paid before the staffs are laid off, if you do not have the resources, do not lay the staffs off until you are ready to do that, by saying go without giving them what is due, how will they cope with the current challenges in Nigeria”.
It was gathered that after a meeting yesterday with the Caverton management, the union and the Ministry of Labour, the Caverton management said they should be given 6 months to pay.
As at the time of this report, the 9 members arrested have been released but unfortunately all of them were reported to have been severely beaten by the police while in their custody with the bottom of the gun, one of them is said have sustained in jury in the eye
The union say they are going back to the drawing board to restrategise for their next line of action.