On 9 May, aviation workers embarked on a warning strike. The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Employees (AUPCTRE) called on workers to down their tools over two lingering issues.
These are the non-implementation of reviewed conditions of service for over nine years, and the failure to make consequential adjustments on the salaries of aviation workers based on the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act.
The unions in the sector had reached collective agreements for upward reviews of conditions of service of the workers with the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), and the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, for almost a decade. But their members are yet to benefit from these collective agreements.
Aviation workers had been fully mobilized and organized across the country for action. Workers on the picket line at the Murtala Mohammed Airport were very angry and they did not hide their feelings. They made sure that no plane could fly on the domestic routes throughout the duration of the strike, starting from 3:30am on Monday 9 May.
It was initially meant to be for two days. However, the NUATE and AUPCTRE leaderships jointly stepped down the second day, based as they said, on a review of the situation. While the picketing workers felt that the unions should have continued with the second day to send a clear message to the government, they were happy that even that one day hit the government and the flying oga people hard.
They will also be holding their unions’ leaderships to account for a “full blown strike” to be called, if their reviewed Conditions of Service are not released and the necessary consequential adjustments made to their salaries.
I was happy to be part of the strike, as a shop steward of NUATE. I was initially assigned to take charge of the NCAA headquarters, which was one of the first places we deployed a picket to. I later headed to NAMA with other comrades from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to resist attempts at breaking our picket line there.
We ensured that all entrances into the offices were locked. This was important to avoid leaving room for management to blackmail some workers into scabbing. At the close of the day, we meet at the national secretariat to review activities and assess the extent of our success. We were happy that our action met resounding success regarding domestic flights.
At the international airport, some of comrades who locked up access to the control tower were arrested by the military. But the union intervened, and they were later released.
The success of the strike has lifted the fighting spirit of aviation workers. The unions have made it clear that, if our demands, which are clearly just are not met within the next three weeks, we will go on a full and indefinite strike.
We will be ready for the fight. As socialists and working-class activists, we know that in our hands is placed a power greater than the hoarded gold of the bosses. And we wield this power when we go on mass strike. With this collective power, we will fight until our reviewed conditions of service are implemented and the consequential adjustments made on our salaries.
by Samson SOJE