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Fresh row over pilots, engineers’ pay rise


*NAAPE insists on condition of service, equal remuneration
A fresh row is brewing in the local aviation sector over pilots and engineers’ demand for pay rise in some airlines.

The workers, on different levels of pay, are agitating equal remuneration with their expatriate counterparts, but to the displeasure of their employers.

Some operators felt that the pilots and engineers were already well remunerated, hence, threatened to downsize workforce should the workers push their lucks too far.

The umbrella body for the workers, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), however, said it was not unaware of the threats, but of importance to the union is getting the operators to respect conditions of service, coupled with Nigerian workers earning equal pay with the expatriates.

Figures from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) show a total of 2,269 active licensed pilots of which 1,646 are Nigerians. Non-Nigerian pilots are 623, of while there are at least another 59 pilots with certificates of validation, though not licensed by Nigeria as at March 27, 2017.

Comparatively, a foreign captain earns at least $12,000 (N4.8million) on the average a month. The best paid Nigerian captains are those in managerial positions, who earn an average of N2.5 million a month, while most of them earn about N1million, The Guardian gathered.

Specifically, at entry level, a pilot with a commercial pilots licence earns between N200,000 and N550,000 depending on the airlines of service, job description and contract. First Officer in Nigerian airlines earn between N300,000 to N800,000 depending on airline and experience by flight hours. A captain earns between N500,000 to N1.5 million depending on airlines, though excluding fringe benefits.

At Bristow Helicopters, perhaps one of the highest paying airlines in the country, a First Officer earns about N1.5 million monthly excluding allowance. It was also learnt that Captains earn between N2.5 million to N3.5 million monthly, excluding flight allowances. Aircraft engineers earn between N20 million to N30 million per annum.

Chief Operating Officer of an airlines said the overhead are already huge, attracting over 30 per cent of an airlines revenue, beyond which no reasonable airlines will increase.

“I think our pilots and engineers are becoming overbearing in their demands. They want to earn equal pay with some expatriates when they dont have equal job description. Some are even agitating for pay in dollars and at the black market rate, which is sheer illegality.

“No airline will condescend to that; I can assure you. But if they keep pressing without the authorities putting them in check, then we may have no option than to shed some weigh,” he said.

An aviation consultant, Capt. John Dung, shared similar position, urging pilots to exercise discretion in their agitations for more pay.

“The concern now is not pushing the employers to the wall. Right-sizing workforce will have ripple effects on the industry and the workers too. The industry cannot afford another aggravating episode of pilots’ unemployment,” he said.

Public Relation Officer of NAAPE, Francis Igwe, said though there is hardly equal pay structure for all categories of workers in the sector, the union, however, demand that airlines workers across the board should earn decent pay.

He said most of the airlines that dont pay well dont even allow unionism. It means that they could afford to do whatever they like, NAAPE says no!

“There are several airlines where expatriates are still better paid than our own people just because there are some rubbish conditions in the pay slip, like being ‘foreigners’ and others. Yet many of them only came to Nigeria to learn work here, and after you call them expatriate. An expatriate is really someone that has advanced knowledge in that area.

“Indeed, our needs and wants are insatiable and there is always room for improvement. Even we in the government sector do ask for more. Notwithstanding, we at NAAPE are always looking at the safer side in pressing home our demands. For instance, when Aero Contractors was having issues, we never at anytime agreed that the airlines be shutdown because we have our members their whose means of livelihood depend on their operations. Instead of shutting down that brings nobody nothing, we do consider the economic realities and reach a compromise that is beneficial to all parties,” he said.

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