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Protesting Workers Shut Down Arik Air Operations In Lagos

Operations of Arik Air have been shut down by aviation unions over alleged non-payment of staff salaries since April and other “anti-labour practices.”

The unions included the National Union of Air Transport Employees and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria.

According to the unions, the non-payment started after the company placed 90 per cent of the workforce on compulsory leave.

On Monday, the protesting workers shut down all operations of the airline.

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer, Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu had written the Minister of Labour and Employment, the Minister of Aviation, and the Director General, NCAA, appealing for an intervention in seeking for the understanding and cooperation of the workers’ unions to prevent the planned strike.

The letter, dated September 11, 2020, accused the unions’ leadership of abusing their position without exhausting various channels of engagement, discussion, and consensus.

Workers take over the gate of Arik Air
Workers take over the gate of April Air

The airline rejected the request for an additional retirement scheme, describing it as “an unsustainable standard for other airlines that are struggling to survive in these difficult times.”

“We strongly believe that the threat of strike action without an exhaustive use of the various channels of engagement, discussion, consensus and understanding is faulty and unlikely to yield the best outcomes for staff, the company and its faithful passengers,” it said.

“It is in fact an abuse of the position of union leadership as the issues in dispute cannot pass the test of fairness and only affect, in the short term, less than 20 staff out of a work force of over 1600.

“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, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul organizations (MRO) while carefully managing the COVID-19 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.”

See the video of the protesting workers below:

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