Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, has expressed regret over the unpleasant conditions of workers and the reduction in the wages of staff in the Nigerian aviation industry occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the world by storm.
This is as industry unions unilaterally called on the Federal Government to provide intervention funds to organsiations working in the country’s aviation industry, warning that without this, some of the workers in the sector may lose their jobs.
A statement by Dr. James Odaudu, Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation to mark the 2020 May Day Celebration, said that Sirika was disturbed with the options available to airlines’ workers and service provider, which were to either send their staff on compulsory leaves or reduction of their wages.
Sirika declared that workers in the sector were among the hardest hit economically by the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, especially with the grounding of passenger flights and shutting down of services globally.
He, assured that the challenge would be surmounted with the cooperation of all players in the sector.
He said: “He however expresses the belief that there’s a bright future for the Nigerian aviation industry after the dark times that it presently faces, hoping that the pandemic will be short-lived.
“Government, he said, was aware of the dire situation in the aviation sector and will do whatever is practically possible to mitigate the consequences of the total lockdown in the industry and create an enabling environment for the sector to bounce back.”
Besides, in his message to the workers, Comrade Ahmadu Ilitrus, the President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) decried that the sector was hard hit by the pandemic.
He said that the unions were not unaware of the decision of some employers to “unilaterally” cut the salaries of workers or send them on leave without pay as a result of the present crisis in the sector.
Ilitrus insisted that the unions would not accept the regime of unilateral and arbitrary cutting of its members salaries and declaration of unpaid leave.
He threatened that the unions were prepared to confront these “assaults” upon resumption with every vigour in them.
According to him, the unions, led by ATSSSAN had sent a letter of appeal to the Federal Government for special intervention in the aviation industry.
He said that every business operators in the sector would benefit of the intervention assistance if approved by the government.
He added: “Though, without prejudice to what the various aviation businesses are passing through at this time, we sincerely see no reason while our members should be a target for victimisation, especially at this early period of the crisis.
“Our union salutes every frontline worker, among which aviators and the press should rightly belong, for their monumental sacrifices in the fight against COVID-19.
“It is in this vein we strongly enjoin our members to take strict compliance to the usage of the Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) seriously now and when operations fully resume at our various airports.”
Also, Comrade Ben Nnabue, the President of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), lamented that the 2020 May Day celebration was overshadowed by the rampant COVID-19 pandemic.
Nnabue also feared that the crisis had heighted job insecurity among workers in the sector.
“For sure, the workplace will not be the same again. But, how fast this change will catch on remains to be seen,” he said.
Rather than lay off workers, Nnabue appealed to employers in the sector to tap from their sinking funds in order to ensure continuity of income for their workers.
He also agitated for payment of commensurate palliatives to essential workers who despite the danger inherent still report to their duty posts regularly.
Like Ilitrus, Nnabue, also appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of aviation companies and agencies, stressing that the sector may witness total collapse without government intervention or bailout.