Pilots, engineers threaten to ground airlines’ operations over mass sack

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The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) yesterday issued a two-week ultimatum to airlines which have sacked or plan to sack their pilots and engineers under the guise of COVID-19 to reverse the decision or it (NAAPE) would withdraw its services to airlines.

The threat came in the wake of the sacking of 100 pilots and engineers by Bristow Helicopters and about 97 pilots by Air Peace.

The airlines attribute their actions to the debilitating effect of the ravaging coronavirus disease on their operations.

Speaking at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the president of NAAPE, Mr. Abednego Galadima said the pilots and engineers had resolved to withdraw their services to all the domestic airline in the event that the demand was not addressed.

“We demand that Bristow and Air Peace should immediately recall all sacked pilots and aircraft engineers until all Labour issues are resolved or be grounded by NCAA because of attendant safety concerns created by their action.

“As a result of the known consequences of these illegal actions and our commitment to patriotic fervour, we shall be forced to withdraw our guarantee of industrial peace within the industry if this call is not heeded within two weeks.

“Our union will be left with no other option but to withdraw the services of pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers across all the airlines,” he said.

Particularly, Galadima faulted Bristow for the sack of 100 pilots and engineers due to the COVID-19 saying the airline was operating throughout the lockdown period servicing the oil and gas sector as essential service.

On the company’s statement that the sack cut across indigenous and expatriate pilots and engineers, Galadima dismissed it as a ploy to get rid of Nigerians.

“To say the 100 pilots and engineers are not only our members is unsubstantiated and we do not know this because the management did not engage us.

“Operators especially Bristow Helicopters have rendered our members redundant despite assurances by government of support for their businesses in return for operators not laying off staff.

“These operators are already running on lean manpower with disproportionate number being expatriates yet, without regard to our expatriate and local content laws and executive order (5) they have gone ahead to lay off staff under the guise of COVID-19 pandemic.”

“And they cannot be using COVID-19 as an excuse because the cessation of flight operations did not affect essential services like the oil and gas and Bristow and Caverton were operating during the lockdown.

“In fact you’d recall that our members were held by the Rivers State government during the lockdown. S how can they be using COVID-19 as an excuse?

“It is on record that Bristow Helicopters operated throughout the lockdown supporting oil and gas operations with government approval and guarantees service contracts in the same national interest but are now using COVID-19 to force redundancy on our members,” he said.

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