Workers’ unions in the aviation industry have threatened to shut the airspace and ground all flight activities in protest against the Federal Government’s refusal to pay N45b pension and gratuities of Nigeria Airways ex-workers.
The unions, comprised of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), kicked at the delayed payment to about 6000 ex-workers several months after President Muhammadu Buhari approved the lump sum.
The unions, in a petition to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made available to The Guardian yesterday, said they would not wait until the entire workers of the defunct carrier died before taking step to ensure that they were paid their benefits.
The petition, dated March 19, 2018 was signed by Ocheme Aba for NAAPE, Frances Akinjole of ATSSSAN and Olayinka Abioye for NUATE.
The ex-workers had accused the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, of willfully delaying the payment of the severance packages despite approval by the government.
Secretary General of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, confirmed that the industrial action had been slated for next week, with mobilisation of members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) already commenced to ensure wider support for the action.
The petition reads: “It is disheartening that the Minister of Finance has unconsciously and negatively prioritised the president’s directive on this matter. She has equally in a most uncaring manner, refused to heed all entreaties by the hapless ex-workers.
“Not even the cries of the growing list of the avoidable deaths and other afflictions created by their excruciating conditions of existence had pinched the minister. Our previous letters to the minister has failed to move her just as earlier letter from the NLC on the matter.
“As we can no longer wait for all the ex-staff of the Nigeria Airways to die before entitlements are paid, we are therefore, compelled to force Adeosun to come to terms with the reality of the situation and be rid of her gross insensitivity.
“In view of the above, we are sad to inform you that all workers in the aviation sector will commence an indefinite industrial action in 14 days should the ex-Nigeria Airways workers fail to receive their entitlements as graciously approved. We have also commenced the mobilisation of NLC, TUC and ULC towards assuring wider support for this objective,” the statement read in part.
The ex-workers, at their last protest in February, had also accused the finance minister of allegedly withholding the largesse for no just course, while appealing to the FG to come to their rescue.
The Federal Government at a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in September 2017 approved the sum of N45 billion out of the N78 billion estimated as pensions and gratuities of about 6000 ex-workers of the defunct airline since it was liquidated in 2004.
An estimate has it that about 700 of the ex-workers had died in the 15 years struggle for pension and gratuities.