Labour unions ground Arik, Air Peace operations at GAT

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he ongoing nationwide strike over the national minimum wage took a toll on the operations of Arik Air and Air Peace on Friday as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Friday laid siege to the general aviation terminal at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and forced the carriers’ personnel to close the counters.

Consequently, flights could not take off as passengers who had arrived at the airport for the early morning flights could not access the terminal while those who were already inside could not be checked in as the airline staff had been forced to desert their duty post.

NewsGazette learnt that the unions, numbering more than hundred who had arrived as early as 6.30am and took positions inside and outside, laid siege to the terminal building for over four hours.

The situation was, however different at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 where Med-View Airline, Overland Airways, Dana Air, Azman Air and Aero operate from.

It was gathered that the unions did not go near the terminal operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Ltd (BASL).

Commenting on the development, the spokesman for Air Peace, Mr. Chris Iwarah described labour’s action as “sad” and “unfortunate”.

“It is sad and with what the unions have done, it affects all our operations. And because we did not follow our schedule we may be unable to do our late flights into airports like Owerri, Benin, Ondo because the landing on those airports are visual….

“We are not against the unions’ strike but they can carry out their industrial action without using it to affect the private businesses of others,” he said.

In his reaction, spokesman for Arik Air, Mr. Adebanji Ola who said the unionists disrupted operations at its counters.

He however said, flights had resumed and Arik’s services gave commenced normally.

It would be recalled that the labour unions had on Thursday shut down aviation agencies’ offices at the international wing of the airport.

However, their action did not affect flight services the airport as airlines and passengers went about their respective businesses without hindrance.

Affiliates to the unions, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) shut down the offices in compliance with the directives from their parent organisations.

The union members had in the early hours of that day barricaded the offices of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Also affected by the action were the headquarters of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at the airport.

Commenting on the action, the deputy general secretary of ATSSSAN, Mr. Frances Akinjole said the unions in the sector only carried out a “light” action “because we are currently engaging on another important assignment outside Lagos.

“It is a decision we collectively took that there will be a strike, but unfortunately one of our sister unions, NUATE, is having its national delegates conference in Asaba today.

“So, we decided to make the protest very light because the leadership of the union is in Asaba.

“We did not want it to look as if the aviation unions are not in solidarity with the national labour movement and that is why we only shut down the offices,” he explained.

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