The National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC stormed the local wing of the Lagos airport this morning to picket airlines namely, AirPeace, Overland and Medview over the casualization of workers and refusal to unionise.
Members of the union drove their vehicle into the airport and stationed it at the terminal building housing the operations of AirPeace, blaring from the vehicle was solidarity song from loud speakers ,as members distributes leaflets to educate people of what the union stands for and the benefits of being members.
However, the intention of the union to picket the airlines particularly AirPeace was resisted as armed mobile police officers and officers of the civil defence Corps and aviation security were deployed to the terminal to ensure passengers safety and sanity.
The security officers were stationed at the entrance of the terminal kept the union members far off from the terminal from disrupting the airlines operations.
General Secretary, NUATE, comrade Olayinka Abioye had earlier informed ” as part of efforts to curb casualization of workers, bring back dignity of our labour and entrench compulsory unionization of workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress shall visit Murtala Mohammed international airport, General Aviation Terminal one to campaign for the ILO 2017 World Day for decent work and picket one or two airlines that has seemingly refused workers to join unions”.
While the union was taken aback with the deployment of security officers to the terminal, comrade Abioye said their intention was not to shut down the operations of any airlines but had come peacefully to join in the ILO Day of sensitizing workers of the need to be part and parcel of the union.
He noted that their presence at the terminal today had earlier been communicated through letters to the airport authority, the airport police command and other security agencies concerned.
Abioye alleged that AirPeace airline has ‘skeleton in its cupboard’ that was why it had gone ahead to hire mobile police officers to stop them, adding that the Managing Director, had been adamant in allowing it’s staff who had signified interest to be unionised threatening to sack them if they did not jettison the idea.
He noted that before now, all efforts to seek audience with the airline Managing Director had failed as their attempts were rebuffed.
” if we want to picket AirPeace, the police or any security agency cannot stop us, it is allowed but because they know they are guilty of what the union is fighting against, that’s why they have gone ahead to bring police officers”.
Spokesman for the airline, Mr. Christian Iwarah denied the allegations, adding that the airline has no casual works, or had the union ever written for a meeting with the management and cannot force any of it’s workers to join the unions when they were not interested.
Earlier in a statement, the airline says “Without a doubt, we recognise the inalienable right of our staff to decide whether or not they wish to be members of any of the unions in the industry. It is the responsibility of the unions to sell themselves to our members of staff and not our obligation to compel them to join any group the law has not mandated them to belong. It is high time trade unions in the country knew unionism is a matter of free choice; it can never be compelled.
“Rather than embarking on this ill-advised and disruptive plot to worsen the crisis in the nation’s aviation sector, we expect the unionists to challenge themselves to come up with outstanding ideas to advance the growth of the aviation industry in concert with efforts by the Federal Government to address the challenges of the sector.
“We urge the Federal Government and security agencies to call the unions to order to avoid a breach of the public peace. While we recognise the right of trade unions to peacefully embark on picketing where there is a trade dispute, such right does not extend to disrupting other people’s legitimate engagements, especially in this case where there is no trade dispute. The tool of picketing should not be used just for the fun of it. Should the unionists, however, fail to heed wise counsel and carry out their threat of disrupting our flight operations, we expect security agents to intervene to protect law-abiding citizens and bring those who may want to take the laws into their own hands to book. Air Peace is one big family of happy people and we will not sit idly by while some unpatriotic Nigerians seek to stoke the fires of crisis where there really should be none,” the airline said.