Aviation Headlines

How NAHCO workers strike crippled airlines operation


.We’ve already lost over ₦500m, says Air Peace, as Reps call for restraint

. We’re on top of it, NAHCO management responds

By Chukwuemeke Iwelunmo

Local and foreign airline passengers at the Lagos airport were stranded as staff of the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) embarked on strike midnight of yesterday.

Some of the local and foreign airlines the company handles their check-in and ramp services could board their flight or attend to in-bound flights and other passenger and cargo facilitation process.

In fact, the affected airlines were already counting their losses as flight operations were crippled across the country. For instance, Air Peace disclosed that the strike had already cost it over N500 million, while lamenting the impact of the industrial action on its operations.

The management of the airline yesterday stated that the ground handling company did not pre-inform them about the strike neither was a public notice issued.

“Neither NAHCO nor the striking union informed us of an impending strike. Our staff reported to work and noticed an ongoing industrial action. If we were informed beforehand, we would have conveyed same to our passengers early enough.

“Now, all morning flights and other subsequent flights have been disrupted- cancelled, delayed and rescheduled. This has cost us over 500 million naira as we operate over 100 flights daily. Passengers are also attacking our ground staff as they cannot fly.

“We have notified the flying public of the strike but it is important to stress again that the action is by the staff of NAHCO, not Air Peace. It is an action against the Management of NAHCO, and Air Peace has nothing to do with it.

“While we monitor the situation and hope things return to normal soon, we regret the impact of the disruptions on the travel plans of our passengers and implore them to desist from assaulting our staff. We are not responsible for the disruptions”, the airline stated.

Qatar Airway, who was also affected by the action on Monday morning saw its aircraft filled with passengers returned to Doha after landing in Lagos, due to the absence of ramp services.

Domestic airlines also handled by NAHCO like Dana and others had to delay and reschedule their flights because of the strike by NAHCO staff but not without notifying the passengers via email and their social media platforms.

The NAHCO Management was alleged to have been informed about the strike but did nothing about it.

The grouse with the management is failure to review current staff salaries called for since June last year as contained in a notice sent by the Secretaries General of the two unions in the companies, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE and the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN to the staff.

The notice as signed by the NUATE and ATSSSAN Secretaries General, Comrades Ocheme Aba and Frances Akinjole read: “As all ultimatum issued by our unions have gone unheeded and the Management continues to play on our intelligence through rescheduling of purposeless meetings, we have come to the conclusion that the management is clearly decided against harkening to our cries of fairness and equity despite overwhelming evidence in support of our demand”.

It added: “This action shall be indefinite until otherwise directed by the secretaries of the unions”.

It was also learnt that the call to review the current staff salaries was not only made to NAHCO but also the Skyway Aviation Handling Company, SAHCO whose management quickly met with the unions and reached an amicable solution to avert the strike.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Honourable Nnolim Nnaji has called for restraint over the on-going industrial dispute between the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, (NAHCO) and its workers.

Honourable Nnaji also urged the management of the ground Handling company to immediately enter into dialogue with the leadership of the union to avert further disruption of flight operations across the country.

He equally appealed to the union to douse its agitation and show concern for the pains the action would bring on the innocent Nigerian travellers both locally and internationally.

Honourable Nnaji who represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives reminded the workers that their downing tools at this time the elections were already close could cause severe consequences to campaigns and movements of sensitive materials by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).

He further assured the workers that his Committee would reach out to the management to see how their grievances could be urgently addressed

The workers’ strike which commenced early Monday morning over welfare issues was said to have already started taking its toll on the industry as heavy flight delays were already set in both on local and international.

However, Nahco Aviance, said it was engaging the unions and bringing to an end the disruption in flight services occasioned by the industrial action embarked upon by a section of its staff.

In a statement in Lagos Monday, NAHCO acknowledged that some of its clients were being put through a difficult situation by the insistence of some staff to embark on strike action despite a subsisting order of court which restrained them from doing so.

“We regret all the inconveniences,” the Group Executive Director, Dr. Olusola Obabori said, adding that the Company is already engaging the Unions and other stakeholders and is positive the situation would be resolved within hours.

He said: “We understand the power of negotiation. The Company which has arguably the best welfare package among the local players in the aviation industry will do all that is absolutely necessary to make its workforce happy even as it delights its customers.”

“This situation would be resolved speedily as it is detrimental to the staff, the Company and its esteemed clients.”

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It would be recalled that aviation unions, NUATE and ATSSSAN last week gave a five day notice of strike to NAHCO management citing slow progress in negotiation for salary review.

The Company which just promoted about 2,000 members of its workforce asked that accelerated negotiation be continued in February to enable the Company stabilize from the financial effect of the recent promotions.

Undaunted, the unions gave the notice of strike prompting the Management of the Company to seek for court intervention to prevent the industrial action while negotiation proceeds in a serene and conducive atmosphere.

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