The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), on Friday said it would stop the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) from establishing the proposed new airline tagged NG Eagle, that is, if all labour issues are not resolved.
President of the union, Ben Nnabue said the workers would picket Arik Air, the airline that was taken over by AMCON over huge debts, for three months, if it refused to settle all matters relating to workers’ welfare.
He said, “AMCON has shown that we are in a country that values assets more than the people who work with the assets, whereas the people and workers created the machines and assets, without the people, the assets will be useless, if they don’t resolve the problem of workers, the new airline will not take off, we will do picketing at Arik Air for three months, the mandate of workers must be taken by force, this battle has just started, we have told Arik Air to open up to us on the new airline, the management is dishonest”, he said.
Also speaking at the protest in front of Arik Air headquarters at Lagos airport, secretary of the union, Ocheme Aba, said even though it is a welcome development to float a new airline in the industry, the management of AMCON and Arik Air has chosen to be dishonest and mistreat the workers, adding that the workers will resist all means to float a new airline without completely addressing labour issues.
“But there are ominous signs that what should ordinarily be a lofty project will likely run into a heavy storm being created by a thoroughly fouled and convoluted industrial atmosphere at Arik Air. We consider it most unfortunate that an odd combination of AMCON’s egoistic, evasive, and self-defeating tendencies on the one hand, and Arik Air’s unrelenting penchant for courting crisis on the other hand, as well as severally demonstrated lack of capacity/disdain for labour relations practice have evoked a perplexing atmosphere of forlornness in the Airline. Under this atmosphere, it is practically impossible to be hopeful of any good thing. Hence, our misgivings concerning NG Eagle.
“We wish to use this medium to pose the following questions which expose the evil machinations inherent in AMCON’s/Arik Air’s unholy craft and perfidy called NG Eagle: Presently AMCON is in receivership of two airlines – Arik Air and Aero Contractors – being a 60% shareholder in the latter. One should then ask why AMCON would be floating another Airline. We smell a rat.
“We decipher that AMCON’s unstated objective is to open a window of business opportunity as a way to recoup its heavy financial losses through the heavy debts in Arik and Aero. But surely NUATE can’t be the only ones wondering what sort of business ingenuity there could be in running three airlines simultaneously. We have it on good authority that AMCON’s real intention is to sidestep the debt overhang, particularly in Arik air, while continuing to make money from the airline business without any real capital injection. This it intends to achieve by moving all valuable assets of Arik Air, including human asset, into the new NG Eagle.
“The questions are, what becomes of the carcass of Arik Air and its personnel after such evil wind? Presently, AMCON has already moved some Personnel of Arik Air to NG Eagle while being loudly silent on the service records of such personnel in Arik Air. What happens to the previous years of service, or how assured is the security of such service in their new assignments? Or shall such service be in vain?
“AMCON and the management of Arik have arrogated to themselves the powers to probate and reprobate on all issues pertaining to status of employees in this ingenious business melodrama, with complete disregard to subsisting collective bargaining agreements and relevant labour laws. Is NUATE expected to cheer them on to the neglect of its responsibilities and obligations to its members in the airline?
The union urged urgent intervention by the Ministries of Labour and Aviation, as well as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
“While committing the societal aspects of this brazen effrontery to the court of public opinion and urging urgent intervention by appropriate government agencies – Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Aviation, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, etc – we have raised the labour aspects before the Management of Arik Air as trade disputes. Should the Management raise itself to the needed open mindedness and heartedness then we are willing and desirous of resolving them amicably as expected of progressive social partners. Then we shall welcome NG Eagle with our Solidarity Song and pop champagne.
“But, in the event that the reverse of the above is the case, then we shall sing our Solidarity Song as a call to the struggle to fight for the rights of Arik Air’s long-suffering employees. The ball is in their court.”