FG, unions disagree over proposed law banning strike

Aviation workers under the aegis of the National Union of Aviation Transport Employees and Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria have vowed to oppose the Federal Government’s plans to ban aviation workers from going on strike.

The Secretary-General of the National Union of Aviation Transport Employees, Ochema Aba, who spoke on behalf of the unions, insisted that airlines do not render essential services, adding that the minister of aviation had been informed about the ruling of the National Industrial Court that said that airlines do not render essential services.

Aba, who exclusively spoke to The PUNCH in Abuja, noted that the National Assembly wrote to the unions informing them that none of the Acts of the agencies that had been recently passed by the National Assembly had a clause restricting unions from striking.

He said, “Maybe the minister is the only one to determine such a law. When he brings the law, we will deal with it but for now, we have a commitment. The National Assembly wrote to us informing us that none of the Acts of the agencies that have been recently passed by the National Assembly has a such clause in it whether accented by the President or waiting for his accent.”

Meanwhile, The Federal Government through the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika last week vowed to enforce the section of the Civil Aviation Act (2022) which disallows employees from embarking on strike.

The PUNCH reported that staff of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc embarked on an indefinite strike, which grounded international flights at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports.

Abah further said the minister wanted to probably manufacture the law because he was working on the basis of his ministry’s ploy to put those clauses in the Act.

“He assumes that his ministry’s ploy has sailed through and looks like he was somewhere outside the world when issues of essential services were being trashed out when his ministry was involved in it and they came out empty-handed.

“There is no such (clause) as far as we are concerned. If he wants to manufacture one, let him do that. When he brings it out, we would treat it as it is. For us, he has chosen to display his ignorance as a minister of aviation to the world. When the unions go on strike maybe only he will manufacture some police and a court to handle such eventuality,” he stated.

He further noted that the minister ought to have known that the unions did not embark on strike at NAHCO because a court had barred the unions, explaining that the strike that took place was workers’ action and the unions were not involved.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the aviation industry have expressed diverse views on the recent moves by the Federal Government to ban aviation workers from striking.

The Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Security Limited, Capt. John Ojikutu (retd) said the minister stated what the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority should have said because NCAA is in charge of operational issues.

Ojikutu noted that the workers should carry their strike outside the operational area, adding that they should go to the headquarters to protest or strike and not within the airport to disrupt other operators.

“If you want to protest against your employer, go to his office, don’t come to the common ground and start protesting because you are disrupting other operators.

“The minister coming out is okay. The minister said they have not written it down as a law. It must be written down as a directive and law, not to the union alone but to their employers.

“If there must be any disruption of their own services, they should carry it to their office. You cannot say that you are not working and disrupt others. It is wrong. If it ever happens again, what they need to do is to use the police and arrest them in the common operational area, “he said He further noted that the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association were watching the industry and they would use it for their ratings.

However, a former Director General of NCAA, Capt Roland Iyayi, was quoted saying, “The right of an association is a fundamental right as enshrined in the constitution, adding that any law that flaunts the provisions of the constitution is null and void.

“To that extent, I suppose the unions may retain the services of lawyers in a long term to test whether or not this particular law is legal because if you say to me that my right of the association because I am now in aviation, is constrained because aviation has now by virtue of someone’s determination been made an essential service. Then, we may have to go to court to determine or interpret what it means to be essential.

“I read that Act and it was inserted without consultation and if you do that, it is an infringement on the rights of other people. My view is that there was the need for extensive consultations before making that a law and there were other things that were inserted in the Act like the criminalisation of airlines upon remittance of five per cent TLC.”


Article first published on the Punch Website

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