Aviation Workers Fight for Improved Conditions of Service

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Protesting aviation workers in front of Caverton helicopters office at MMIA, Ikeja

The conditions of service of federal workers in the aviation industry have not been reviewed for the past eight years. This has resulted in stagnation of their promotions, adversely affecting their career development. The trade unions in the sector have thus resolved that employees of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) will withdraw their services if this situation is not urgently addressed.

These government agencies have consciously chosen to avoid reviewing the conditions of service because of government’s lack of concern for the workers. The agencies are seen as money-making ventures by government with utter disregard for the labour force which generates revenue.

For example, 25% of the gross earnings of each of these parastatals are remitted into the purse of the Federal Government, even before salaries are paid. And it is not as if any subvention comes from the government for running them.

So, management does everything possible to cut costs except trim down their own perks and privileges. Maintaining outdated conditions of services and thus promotion of staff is thus seen as cost cutting measures

The situation is however not any better for workers employed by the private sector workers in the aviation industry. In fact, they are worse hit. Majority of the airlines and allied companies rendering aviation services do not even allow their employees to belong to unions of their choice.

Every attempt by the workers to be unionised always attracts unfair dismissals. It is pathetic that many of these companies do not even have defined Conditions of. And most of those that have such rules always attempt to avoid implementation using the excuse that they are under receivership, as is the case with Aero-Contractors Airline. Arik Air is also doing everything possible to stifle the evolvement of Conditions of Service for the workforce.

The situation is worse with Caverton Helicopters Nigeria. It has a reputation for disengaging staff either through outright dismissals because of workers’ union affiliations or through incessant redundancy exercises, only to reengage the same workers as contract staff (casual workers).

The last was a redundancy agreement which they reached with the Unions; the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE). At the implementation stage of the redundancy exercise, they realised that redundancy costs would outweigh their expected ignoble benefits, because the unions would not cut a rotten deal.

When they attempted to bulldoze unfair packages through, workers shutdown their operations for a whole day in the second week of April, resulting in huge financial loss for the company. The company responded by drafting in the Rapid Response Squad of the police force.

one of the Caverton workers beaten up. Photo credits: Sahara Reporters

The protesting workers were beaten up to the extent that some of them were hospitalised. Their phones, money and other personal items got missing during the attack. And not less than 12 of them were arrested. It took continued mass action of workers which led to severe traffic gridlock in the airport and its environs to win their release the following day.

Companies like Landover, the owners and operators of Overland Airline do not believe in reviewing of CoS. Whenever CoS falls due for review in the aviation sector, it is always a tug of war.

In line with this year’s May Day international theme: Another 100 Years of Struggle for Jobs, Dignity and Social Justice, aviation workers have vowed to fight until the different companies and parastatals in the sector recognise and/or review upwards, the Conditions of Service for staff. This is in realisation of the fact that victory in wage increase and other improvement in the conditions of their working is not secured from the employers on a platter of gold.

It is very likely that the period after May Day will be a season of protests in the aviation industry.

by Frances JOLE

Note: in the print edition of this article, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was reported to be one of the parastatals where Conditions of Service of workers had not been reviewed (along with NCAA & NAMA). This error has been corrected here, please. FAAN entered negotiations for a review after workers’ struggle which lasted two years. Implementation of the new CoS in FAAN will commence in June.

– Editor

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