Unions ground Arik operations, scores of passengers stranded

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The National Union of Air Transport Employees NUATE and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN in Arik Air have carried out their threats to shut down the operations of Arik Air today.

Members of the unions barricaded the headquarters of Arik air with their vehicles and posted placards on the gate with the inscriptions: Modern slavery in Arik Air LTD, We say No to slavery, Every workers have rights to working conditions which respects his safety, health and dignity, chanting and singing solidarity songs. 
The unions had earlier given the Arik Air Management an ultimatum to resolve the issues of their half paid salaries and resume the discussions on the conditions of Service or face an industrial action.
Passengers of the airline were stranded and could not travel this morning as the Arik Air counters were empty, no staff was around to tell the passengers what was going on.
Some of the passengers were told by other airlines staff that the Arik staff were on strike.
 The passengers who were angry that they were not informed about the development decided to buy tickets from other airlines to travel. 
Comrade Ocheme Aba, Secretary General, NUATE said the action became necessary following the refusal of the airline Management to accede to their demands.
He said their demands include payment of the balance of the staff salaries both for those who worked and at home during the period of the lockdown. 
According to him, a circular by the Arik Air Management informed the staff during the lockdown that only 20% of staff were needed at work and promised that the 80% sent on compulsory leave would be paid 20% salaries when those on duty would be paid 50% salaries.

Comrade Aba said, the Management only paid one month and till date nothing had been paid to both those who were at work and those at home.”First of all these decisions were taken unilaterally and based on labour practice every decision that would affect in terms of payment of the workers has to be negotiated, there has to be a collective  bargaining agreement, that’s the labour and yet they didn’t even keep to that promise.”
Adding that, ” for people who were even coming to work they were paying them less than 50% of their salaries who were struggling on their own to find their way to work during that period of lockdown go businesses for which they were making more than normal money and the people at home whom they say they were going to pay 20% they didn’t pay, they paid for only one month and thereafter nothing again till date.”
Comrade Aba stressed that another burning issue is the conditions of Service for the staff, which had never existed in the airline.
He said this had been lingering for over 3 years since 2017 as the airline had kept bringing up issues to frustrate their efforts at negotiations.

Investigation revealed that the Director General, NCAA is to wade into the matter as a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow), both the unions and the Arik Management had been informed about the meeting.In the shut down of operations, Management of Arik is yet to speak on the development.
It will be recalled that the Arik Air Management last week wrote to the Ministers of Labour and Employment and his counterpart in Aviation to wade into the matter.
In the letter signed by the Managing Director of Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu says, “the only outstanding area of difference is the request by the unions for a terminal benefit scheme over and above the requirements of the Pension Act.
“They request for an independent retirement benefit scheme that will be wholly funded by the airline where retiring, resigning and terminated staff will receive a lump sum payment upon exit that will in some cases double the joint contribution of management and staff under the Pension Act of 2004 as amended.”

“ While it is the right of staff to share in the prosperity of a company, the request for an additional retirement scheme from a loss making company, in receivership and whose operations are supported by creditors over and above legal requirements is simply onerous.”

“Given the cost driven challenges in the aviation sector that have seen majority of airlines fold up in the past years, the request by the unions will set an unsustainable standard for other airlines that are struggling to survive in these difficult times. Notwithstanding, management restates its commitment to appropriate staff welfare and will do its best to keep workers motivated within the limit of available resources.”

“We can report with much gratitude that financial creditors have all suspended demands for repayment to ensure the stability of the airline. We are also enjoying the support of fuel suppliers, aircraft parts suppliers and various Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul organizations (MRO) while carefully managing the COVID19 challenge. This is the kind of understanding and support we urge all our staff to imbibe so that we can ride the times and soar.”

“Honorable Minster Sir, we thank the umbrella body for Pilots and Engineers, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the vast majority of staff for their understanding and cooperation as we navigate the post COVID challenges. While we appeal that you intervene in seeking for the understanding and cooperation of the workers’ unions, we remain committed to protecting the airline and assure our stakeholders of a safe and conducive working environment. We shall also protect the interest of the flying public for a safe, friendly and on time travelling experience.”