By G9ija

Hundreds of passengers were yesterday stranded at the domestic wings of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Ikeja, Lagos as aviation unions prevented Arik Air from operating flights out of the airport.

As early as 6.00 a.m. members of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) occupied the entrance gate into the airline premises, preventing workers from gaining access into the facility.

The union members barricaded entrance into the airline headquarters with their vehicles, singing solidarity songs.

Displaying placards with many messages, they described the airline as running a slave camp where workers rights and condition of service are abused.

The Secretary General, NUATE, Mr. Ocheme Aba said the action became necessary following the refusal of the airline to accede to their demands.

He said the union’s demands include payment of the balance of the staff salaries both for those who worked and at home during the period of the lockdown.

According to him, a circular by the Arik Air informed the staff during the lockdown that only 20 per cent of staff were needed at work and promised that the 80 per cent sent on compulsory leave would be paid 20 per cent salaries when those on duty would be paid 50 per cent salaries.

Aba said, the airline only paid one month and till date nothing had been paid to both those who were at work and those at home.

“First of all these decisions were taken unilaterally and based on labour practice every decision that would affect in terms of payment of the workers has to be negotiated, there has to be a collective bargaining agreement, that’s the labour and yet they didn’t even keep to that promise.”

“For people who were even coming to work, they were paying them less than 50 per cent of their salaries who were struggling on their own to find their way to work during that period of lockdown go businesses for which they were making more than normal money and the people at home whom they say they were going to pay 20 per cent they didn’t pay, they paid for only one month and thereafter nothing again till date.”

Aba stressed that another burning issue is the conditions of Service for the staff, which had never existed in the airline.