Many air travellers and airport users had harrowing experience yesterday at the local and international airport terminals nationwide as employees of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (Nahco aviance) went on strike to protest against alleged poor remuneration.
Nahco aviance handles check-in, boarding and ramp services for several international airlines – British Airways, Air France/KLM, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Delta Airlines, EgyptAir, Virgin Atlantic, and Turkish Air as well as domestic carriers, including Air Peace, Aero Contractors, among others.
The strike which began 12 midnight Monday grounded the operations of the aforementioned carriers for over 15 hours.
While the industrial action lasted, the workers refused duty postings.
Consequently, customer airlines suspended, cancelled or rescheduled flights while those that had taken off returned to their bases on hearing of the strike.
Booked customers who arrived at the airports for the early morning flights were stranded in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
The aggrieved workers, under the aegis of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) had earlier issued a five-day notice of the strike to the management of Nahco aviance, citing slow progress in negotiation for salary review.
NewsGazette learnt that the staff asked for a 100 per cent pay rise following the general upward review of ground handling changes in the sector.
The company was said to have rejected such demand and approached the court to stop the industrial action.
“As all ultimatum issued by our unions have gone unheeded and the management continues to play on our intelligence through rescheduling of purposeless meetings, we have come to the conclusion that the management is clearly decided against harkening to our cries of fairness and equity despite overwhelming evidence in support of our demand. This action shall be indefinite until otherwise directed by the secretaries of the unions.
“In view of the above, NUATE and ATSSSAN have no choice than to take definite steps to press home our demands. In the above regard, all staff of NAHCO are hereby directed to withdraw all services with effect from Monday, January 23. This action shall be indefinite until otherwise directed by the secretariats of the unions,” the unions wrote.
Following complaints by airlines whose operations were disrupted by the strike, the Nahco aviance management, aviation agencies and other stakeholders went into negotiation with the labour unions.
A communiqué issued by NUATE and ATSSSAN stated that at a joint meeting held between the aviation unions and the management of Nahco aviance, the strike was called off following agreements reached on salary increment and staff welfare.
“Management has decided to withdraw the suit and vacate the earlier obtained court order; a counter offer to the union’s demands will be issued by the management before close of business on Monday 23rd, January, 2023.
“Negotiations on staff welfare will commence on Wednesday, 25th January, 2023 and all negotiations will be concluded within the week.
“All staff should resume work immediately and no staff would be victimised as a result of the strike action,” the joint letter stated.
It was also agreed that no staff should be victimised because of participation in the strike.
Speaking on the resolution at the end of the meeting held at NAHCO Aviance House, the company’s group executive director, Dr. Sola Obabori, expressed appreciation to its clients who showed great understanding during the period of the strike and to the passengers who were inconvenienced by the strike action.
Meanwhile, the management of Air Peace said the strike paralysed activities on its large network leading to a loss of over N500 million.
“Neither NAHCO nor the striking union informed us of an impending strike. Our staff reported to work and noticed an ongoing industrial action. If we were informed beforehand, we would have conveyed same to our passengers early enough.
“Now, all morning flights and other subsequent flights have been disrupted- cancelled, delayed and rescheduled. This has cost us over 500 million naira as we operate over 100 flights daily,” it said in a statement.