Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has called for social dialogue between the employers and employees in the Aviation industry to prevent job losses.
The Minister, who made this call in Abuja at a conciliatory meeting held with airline operators and trade unions in the aviation industry, appealed that both parties should join hands to avoid job losses in the industry.
Ngige said the government on will provide palliatives in the form of tax reduction, tax exemption, and elimination of custom duties on aircraft spares and logistics. He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will provide stimulus packages to encourage the operators in the industry.
He went on to appreciate the efforts of the airline operators, especially Air Peace and Bristow Helicopters, in keeping faith and paying the salaries and allowances of their staff, when necessary, for the period of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Minister further urged operators to allow their employees exercise their right to unionization, citing Section 40 of Nigerian Constitution as a guarantee for that.
“We encourage the airline operators to allow members of staff who desire to go into unions to do so, as belonging to unions is a voluntary thing. Obstructing them from doing so, is to curtail their fundamental rights as enshrined in our Constitution,” Ngige said.
He noted that the management of Air Peace, the Minister of Aviation and the trade unions in the industry had already agreed that Air Peace would dialogue with their workers on the re-absorption of some of the sacked pilots and engineers, while those who had already got employment elsewhere would be allowed to go peacefully and with their entitlement.
The Minister directed the unions in Turkish Airlines to forward in writing their complaints about victimization of officers in the unions to the Minister of Aviation, and copy the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
On Bristow Helicopters, Ngige noted that 90 – 95% of the issues had already been solved through social dialoguing, adding that, “while we understand the plight of the employers, being that the volume of work in that organization has dwindled, from 50 aircraft business to an all-time low of 12 aircrafts, we appeal to both management and workers to dialogue with human face in order to save jobs.”
The Minister stated that the thrust of the social dialogues was to save jobs, so that even the management could also consider reduction in the number of people slated for redundancy. He also noted that even if redundancy must occur, it should be done under the ambit of Nigerian law on redundancy.
On the unilateral pay cut by Arik Air, as well as the disagreement on terminal benefit for workers, Ngige directed the management of the airline to engage the employees on social dialogue and come up with a mutually agreed remuneration.
Speaking, President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, appreciated Federal Government’s commitment to supporting the Aviation industry through the provision of palliatives.