By Chinelo Obogo

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), has denied the allegations made by the management of Turkish Airline that the Nigerian employees who were dismissed from the airline were sacked due to various ticketing reservation violations, which caused the airline a loss of over $600,000.

The airline claimed that NUATE was involved in the disciplinary process and that the employees were found to be liable for gross misconduct. It also stated that three of the seven Nigerian employees opted to voluntarily resign, while the remaining four declined to do so, adding that, the union, however, threatened to paralyse the airline’s operations in Nigeria by way of industrial action if the employees are not reinstated.

Responding to the allegations, NUATE said in a statement on Monday that all the allegations are false and accused the airline of standing truth on its head. The union said: “The claim that the airline lost $600,000 is mere phantom. What happened was that in April, 2023, Turkish Airlines’ headquarters issued a sales restriction circular which allowed sales of only two premium classes of tickets as a response to foreign airlines’ difficulty in repatriating their proceeds to home countries due to foreign exchange constraints in Nigeria. But, in a contradicting manner the airline advertised fares on the website which was much lower than the permitted fares. Therefore, intending passengers who accessed such fare, but could not pay online were directed by the global call center to approach the Nigerian offices. As the workers could not attend to the customers due to the sales restriction, the passengers resorted to creating ugly scenes at the sales offices which became riotous at times.

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“As an image saving measure, the then sales manager asked the sales staff to use the PNR obtained online by the customers to process the tickets if the airline’s booking system could route the tickets. The sales staff simply complied. As a matter of fact, the then sales manager, a Turkish national, sold this tickets too to confirm that this was the local management’s approved approach to resolving the problem created by the website. The airline’s accountants received the funds from all tickets sold and the sales report was submitted to the sales manager, signed by him and accounts department and scanned to the headquarters. If monies were not fully received, the account would not have balanced, and sales could not have been concluded. Therefore, no monies belonging to Turkish Airlines is missing and no staff has taken any monies belonging to the operator. Importantly, no staff had any pecuniary benefit from the so called internet sales.

“It is, therefore, disingenuous for the General Manager to hold the workers to the charge of failure to comply with the sales restrictions when it is clear that shortcomings on the part of the Airlines ICT (on the website) combined with local management’s decisions on managing an otherwise ugly situation were responsible for the sales in question. It is noteworthy that while the Nigerian staff have been dismissed, the Turkish Sales Manager has been promoted and redeployed, and the ICT of the airline has answered no charges.

“The airline also claimed in the publication that it held several meetings with NUATE and that the Union fully participated in the disciplinary committee that tried the workers. This is only half truth. In none of the meetings did the union agree with the management’s positions or its findings. Even at the so called disciplinary hearing, the union made it absolutely clear that the committee could only be used as a fact finding means as it was not formed in conformity with the negotiated Conditions of Service. This was because the so called Disciplinary Committee that sat over the matter was nothing but a kangaroo court. The General Manager who issued queries to the staff and decided that their responses were not accepted was the same person who set up the Committee, and was the same person who chaired the Committee. Under the circumstance, it was practically impossible to have fair hearing, nor justice as can be seen from the outcome. At any rate, the union conveyed its position to the management in writing at the time.

“It is funny to hear Turkish Airlines say that NUATE is disrupting the airline’s operations despite a restraining order of court when the whole world knows that it is the Nigeria Labour Congress, not NUATE, which has called the picketing exercise. We wish to use this medium to inform the general public and relevant stakeholders that the real reason for the sack of the seven out of 11 employees under these trumped up charges is the continued determination to exterminate the union from the airline which it started in 2020 when it sacked all the members of the airline’s branch executive council of the Union, a matter that it has refused to rectify till date.”

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