A coalition of aviation workers’ unions has threatened to proceed with an industrial action in the next 14 days if the anti-labour clauses in the new aviation bills currently awaiting the assent of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), are not removed.
The coalition is made up of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals and Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations as well as the Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.
Specifically, the unions decried what they termed “a subtle attempt to restrain and obliterate unionism in the aviation sector.”
They alleged that unknown persons in the sector inserted repressive clauses into new bills governing the affairs of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and four other aviation agencies.
The coalition demanded that the leaderships of both the Senate and the House Committees on Aviation withdraw the bills and expunge the controversial clauses before approval by the President.
The controversial clauses are that: “All services which facilitate and maintain the smooth, orderly and safe take-off, flight and landing of aircraft, embarkation and disembarkation and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).
“The minister may, by regulations, prohibit all or such class or classes of workers, officers and other employees or persons, whether corporate or natural, engaged in the provision of services specified in subsection (1) of this section from taking part in a strike or other industrial action.
“The provisions of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, Cap. T9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 shall apply to service in the agency, facilities managed by the agency and in the implementation of this bill. There shall be no strikes, lock-outs, pickets, blockades, service disruptions, etc. of any kind within all facilities managed by the agency and where any labour dispute arises, such dispute shall be resolved by the agency.”
Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, said, “It is absolutely clear that the contentious clauses smuggled into the aviation agencies’ bills have no moral or legal basis for being there. The lame reference to Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Public Order and Public Security) is poignantly pretentious.
“Its attempt to enable the minister of aviation to usurp the powers of the minister of labour is diabolically disingenuous. And its bold assault on the rights of trade unions and hapless workers render the intended law a demonstration of an ultimate disservice by public officers. Therefore, the intended laws must be prevented from breathing any air of acceptance.”
Meanwhile, aviation workers under the banner of the National Union of Air Transport Employees on Monday staged a peaceful protest at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Monday. The demonstration was led by various heads making up the union.
The National President, National Union of Air Transport Employees, Ben Nnabue, said the protest took place in all the airports across the country, including Murtala Mohammed international airports Lagos.
“The strength given to us by our forefathers is what the present administration wants to take from us and they dare to put it in our Acts so that if it passed through the legislative processes, it becomes the law.”
“They know that in aviation we have a strong voice. Once we say that we are shutting down, we will do it. We will fight them with anything we have.”
Article first published on the Punch Website