Workers in the aviation sector organized a protest rally on 21 September to express their anger with the decision of the Federal Government to concession four airports to private investors. The airports slated for privatisation are the four main airports of Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
All the workers’ trade unions at the airports took part in the rally. These included the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Association of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP).
In his address to the rally Comrade Lanre Popoola the Chair of FCT, NUATE expressed the displeasure of the air transport workers. He said the Government decision would lead to massive job losses and he challenged the Minister of State for Aviation to a public debate.
“Year in year out the government claims it has no business in business”, he said “but the promises by the government that privatization and commercialization of government companies would bring better performance and good service delivery to the people is not the case. The people are made to pay more without any improvement in service delivery.”
“This is so because the world situation is characterized by a brutal offensive of capitalist corporations and their state allies in the process of Neoliberal globalization. The concessions were only a way to undermine the rights of the aviation workers. We have witnessed a number Government companies such as NITEL, PHCN and a host of others that have been sold to private companies. This has led to disastrous consequences for workers.
It was worse in the case of the electricity DISCOs and the GENCOs that kept on collecting bail outs from the government. Members of the public suffered as their hard-earned money went on incessant increases in electricity tariffs while there was little or no increase in electricity supply.” He therefore vouched that, “the workers’ protests will continue until the government rescinds its intention to sell the airports”.
Subsequently, in the first half of October, NUATE, ATSSSAN and NUP jointly addressed the mass media reiterating the call for the government to back down from the concession plan. The fate of 6,285 workers, they informed, hangs in the balance, if the government goes ahead with this anti-working people policy. Labour flexibilization which would go along with concession would lead to further precarity of work in the sector.
A fifteen-day ultimatum has been issued by the unions, which expires by the end of October, for the disbanding the discredited Transaction Advisors facilitating the concession process, failing which industrial action might be taken. There must be no turning back to this fight against privatisation under any guise. The issue at hand goes to show that nationalisation is not enough. Working-class democratic control and management of different sectors of the economy, including aviation and particularly the airports are central to ensuring people come before profit.
by Peter Adejobi