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Airlines, workers rally governments to save 25 million aviation jobs

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have urged governments to support the aviation industry by protecting 25 million jobs and sustaining air transport services.

The call is coming a day after the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) called for intervention funds at less than five per cent subsidy and waivers to keep the distress carriers afloat.

At the weekend, Arik Air slashed April salaries by 80 per cent, while 90 per cent of the workforce was made to proceed on vacation without pay. Indeed, the economic situation facing the aviation industry is severe. Global air passenger demand is down 80 per cent. Airlines are facing a liquidity crisis, which threatens the viability of 25 million jobs directly and indirectly dependent upon aviation, including jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

In a joint statement, ITF and IATA called for governments to: ensure that the protection of health workers caring for those with COVID-19 is prioritised; coordinate carefully between each other and with industry to ensure harmonised and effective action to protect the safety of passengers and crew.

Also to provide immediate financial and regulatory support for airlines, in order to maintain the sustainability of terms and conditions for air transport workers, and assist the industry to restart quickly by adapting regulations and lifting travel restrictions in a predictable and efficient manner

IATA and ITF also noted the aviation industry’s contribution to helping alleviate the COVID-19 crisis by keeping supply chains open, and repatriating citizens. Aviation professionals are also volunteering on the front line to assist medical services in the fight against COVID-19.

IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, said airlines were facing the most critical period in the history of commercial aviation.

“Some governments have stepped in to help, and we thank them. But much, much more is needed. Direct financial support is essential to maintain jobs and ensure airlines can remain viable businesses. And when the world is ready to start travelling again, the global economy will need aviation at its best to help restore connectivity, tourism and global supply chains. That will require a harmonised approach with industry, workers and governments working together,” de Juniac said.

ITF’s General Secretary, Stephen Cotton, said IATA and ITF had a shared goal to ensure a sustainable future for the aviation industry.

“In order to achieve this, we need urgent action now. It is crucial that governments understand the importance of the aviation industry in rebuilding the global economy and support the industry.

“Bold decisions are required to invest in the future of airlines and protect the jobs and livelihoods of the transport workers who will lead the economic recovery when COVID-19 has been contained. Workers and the industry have joined forces, we invite more governments to join us in a coordinated approach to keep the industry and its essential supply chains moving,” Cotton said.

Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, said after careful deliberation and analyses, management decided to implement an 80 per cent pay cut for all members of staff across the entire organisation for the month of April 2020. He further disclosed that commencing from May 1st 2020, no less than 90 per cent of staff will proceed on leave without pay until further notice, adding that this position will be reviewed on a monthly basis and communications on further developments will be shared by its Human Resources department as the situation evolves.

He said the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic remains dire with a high level of uncertainty, even within medical circles regarding the containment of the pandemic.

“Our situation in Nigeria appears to be getting worse. With the current observed trend of events, it is prudent to lean on the assumption that the situation is likely to persist for a while longer.

“Of huge significance to us is that we have suffered a sharp decline of over 98 per cent in our revenue streams since the suspension of our scheduled flights almost four weeks ago. Added to this is the rapid decline in the value of the Naira by over 35 per cent against the benchmark and with oil prices now falling well below $15 per barrel, it is evident that we must, without further delay, take decisive action to preserve our organisation,” he said.


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