COVID-19: Pilots, engineers in talks with airlines on return of workers

The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) says it is working assiduously with airline operators to ensure the return of some of its members placed on ‘leave without pay’ by their employers due to the pandemic.

Abednego Galadima, president of NAAPE, in a statement to aviation journalists in Lagos, expressed optimism that some of its members who were yet to be recalled by their employers would be reintegrated into the system, stressing that NAAPE was already discussing with their employers.

Recall that in the heat of COVID-19 when the airports were shut down to commercial flights, airlines had to lay off some staff and asked other staff to go on ‘leave without pay’.

“Some of the airlines have been able to recall some of the staff who were at home. As we talk now, most of them have moved back to the pre-Covid-19 salaries for our members. In December, most of the companies returned to pre-Covid-19 salaries for pilots and engineers,” Galadima said.

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“It is a step in the right direction. We believe the government can still do more, but with what we are witnessing, the airlines will bounce back better. The capacity is increasing gradually. Things will come to normal very soon,” he said.

NAAPE, the umbrella body of pilots and engineers, lauded the Federal Government for the recent palliative released to business organisations in the industry but appealed for increased interventions from the government for the sector in order to make it stronger.

“Employer/employee relationships have been very critical in this pandemic. So, NAAPE is providing a platform where employers and employees will discuss how best they can work together in a harmonious relationship in the industry, knowing what the pandemic has caused us, particularly in the aviation sector. We believe it’s time for all hands to be on deck so that both employers and employees will emerge stronger after this pandemic,” Galadima said.

“We have always intervened and always stood by our members particularly those that were stopped recently due to the pandemic. We make sure that the law is followed and their dues are given to them. Also, we have asked the government to support the industry so that more people will not lose jobs.

“Thank God for the palliative for operators even though we would have loved it goes straight to the workers. But, we hope that it will improve the airlines a bit. Even though we know a few people are still at home. We want to see how they can be brought back into the system,” he said.

The body also announced that at least 80 major aviation industry stakeholders and professionals in Nigeria, including Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace, would participate physically at the forthcoming symposium of NAAPE scheduled to hold in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, later this month.

Galadima said that the one-day symposium with the theme ‘Labour Relations in a Pandemic: Challenges to Employers and Employees’, which holds on Friday, January 29, would have Onyema as chairman of the occasion, while Ado Sanusi, immediate past CEO of Aero Contractors, and Sheri Kyari, would be among the discussants.

Also, Musa Nuhu, director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), would lead other agencies’ heads as special guests.

Mfon Udom, managing director, Ibom Air, and other captains of industry would participate physically at the conference, while various stakeholders would join virtually through the Zoom Network.

Galadima stressed that the reduction in the number of physical participants was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and strict adherence to its protocols.

He agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic, which caught the sector unawares, had negatively affected its members, but expressed optimism that the symposium would bring more harmony between employers and employees.