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Aviation workers stage rallies in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan over anti-labour clauses

By Wole Oyebade (Lagos), Joke Falaju (Abuja) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
12 September 2022   |   4:26 am
A coalition of aviation workers’ unions, yesterday, made good their threats to stage peaceful protests at airports nationwide, to draw attention to anti-labour clauses in new aviation bills.

Murtala Muhammed Internatıonal Aırport, Lagos.

A coalition of aviation workers’ unions, yesterday, made good their threats to stage peaceful protests at airports nationwide, to draw attention to anti-labour clauses in new aviation bills.

As early as 7:00 a.m., notwithstanding a heavy downpour in Lagos, the workers, in their numbers, held rallies at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos; Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT); Zaria, Kaduna Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja and other airports.

In Lagos, the fairly large turnout disrupted vehicular flow around the busy facilities, with travellers forced to walk a distance to catch up with their flights.

Around Ikeja, the workers chanted solidarity songs and displayed placards that read: “Our strength is in our union! Aviation ministry should not regulate labour! Our right to protest is covered under ILO Convention! Banning workers from unionism is evil!”

The coalition, made up of 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), lamented attempts to seize the powers of unions and destroy unionism through new bills currently awaiting assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.

They threatened to proceed on industrial action in the next 14 days, if their requests for withdrawal of the clauses are not granted.

Addressing members of the unions in Lagos, Secretary General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, said the clauses, which forbid embarking on strike, should be expunged before the Act is signed into law.

Aba said the Act is a ploy to deny workers in the aviation industry their fundamental human right to freedom of association and the right to speak up if certain issues are not in their favour.

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.”