Aviation workers issue 14-day ultimatum, begin protest against anti-labour clauses
A coalition of aviation workers’ unions will, today, hold rallies at airports nationwide to protest anti-labour clauses in new aviation bills currently awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The unions also threatened to proceed with industrial action in the next 14 days, if their requests for withdrawal of the bills are not granted.
The coalition is made up of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE).
Specifically, the unions decried what they called a subtle attempt to restrain the powers of unions and obliterate unionism in the aviation sector.
They alleged unknown persons in the sector inserted repressive clauses into new bills governing affairs of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and four other aviation agencies.
The contentious clauses state: “All services which facilitate and maintain the smooth, orderly and safe take-off, flight and landing of aircraft, embarkation and disembarkation and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).
“The minister may, by regulations, prohibit all or such class or classes of workers, officers and other employees or persons, whether corporate or natural, engaged in the provision of services specified in subsection (1) of this section from taking part in a strike or other industrial action.
“The provisions of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, Cap. T9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 shall apply to service in the agency, facilities managed by the agency and in the implementation of this bill. There shall be no strikes, lock-outs, pickets, blockades, service disruptions, etc. of any kind within all facilities managed by the agency and where any labour dispute arises, such dispute shall be resolved by the agency.”
Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, said the implication of the clauses is that the bills grant powers to the minister of aviation to regulate trade unions and workers, in contradiction to the Trade Unions Act, 2004, which grants the minister of labour sole regulatory powers over trade union and industrial relations matters in Nigeria.
He said: “It is absolutely clear that the contentious clauses smuggled into the aviation agencies’ bills have no moral or legal basis for being there. The lame reference to Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Public Order and Public Security) is poignantly pretentious.
“Its attempt to enable the minister of aviation to usurp the powers of the minister of labour is diabolically disingenuous. And its bold assault on the rights of trade unions and hapless workers renders the intended law a demonstration of an ultimate disservice by public officers. Therefore, the intended laws must be prevented from breathing any air of acceptance.”
To right the wrong, the coalition demanded that the leadership of the Senate and House Committees on Aviation withdraw the bills and expunge the contentious clauses before approval by Mr President.
The unions requested that persons behind the clauses must be exposed and punished, adding that obnoxious clauses are in conflict with prevailing national and international laws (as ratified by Nigeria) and have no place in the aviation sector.