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Aviation unions again threaten shutdown over COVID-19 intervention, condition of service

Aviation unions in Nigeria have again threatened to shut down the sector over delayed payment of COVID-19 intervention fund, condition of service for certain agencies, minimum wage as well as relocation of headquarters of agencies.

The unions gave a two-week ultimatum for all concerned to comply with labour laws or face the consequences of their action.
The unions – the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) – made this known in a press conference on Wednesday.

At the press conference, superintended by Ocheme Abba, General Secretary of NUATE, Frances Akinjole, deputy general secretary of ATSSSAN, and Abdul Rasaq, Secretary General of ANAP, the unions said they were compelled to raise alarm about an impending implosion and looming crisis in the aviation industry.

The unions’ agitation with regard to relocation and the COVID-19 bailout funds is premised on timing and the current trend of borrowing among agencies to pay salaries, stating that the Minister did not heed any advice as this was neither the time or was there budgetary provision.

They stated, “We have variously protested the order given by the Minister of Aviation for the relocation of the Headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) from Lagos to Abuja at this time.

“While submitting to Government the right to determine the appropriate location of its agencies (though there is ample room for debate on the matter), we have, however, pointed out to government the need to be circumspect in pursuing this particular objective at this particular time.

“We pointed at the present crisis of COVID-19, the absence of budgetary provision for most, if not all the Agencies in the current budget cycle, the unavailability of office buildings in Abuja, the absence of any real pressure to do so, and other extenuating circumstances which we had hoped would cause a change of strategy to a more pragmatic approach.

“Unfortunately, our efforts in this regard have been to no avail. But, now the vexing issue of refusal of the various managements to engage with us on the labour implications of the relocation has become a new crisis point. The only exception to this is FAAN. We have a responsibility to the workers of these agencies to insist that their genuine rights and interests with regard to relocation are adequately protected. No one should expect that our Unions will shirk that responsibility,” it said.

On the COVID-19 Intervention Fund, the unions said the modalities for the intervention is yet to be known and aviation, the most negatively impacted by COVID-19 is yet to be impacted by these interventions.

The unions said, “At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government announced an intervention fund of S500B. And recently, the FEC approved N2.3T intervention fund to assist businesses cope with the economic devastation occasioned by the pandemic.

“Up till now, aviation is yet to be impacted by these interventions despite the industry being the most negatively impacted by COVID-19. As a result, all the aviation companies remain in dire economic straits.”

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