October 5, 2022

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AVIATION WORKERS DESERVE CLOSE-KNIT REPRESENTATION

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Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Lagos office with the workers observing the warning strike, Monday 9th May 2022

Three aviation unions last weekend made a very loud announcement of their intention to embark on a massive work to rule on Monday, 9th of May 2022.

In a well-articulated media statement signed by the Secretary-General, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAP, Comrade Abdul Razaq Saidu; Secretary-General, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, and the Secretary-General, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE, Comrade Sikiru Waheed, announced that a two-day warning strike would hold on Monday and Tuesday, 9th & 10th May 2022.

A warning strike usually is to call management of an organization concerned in unresolved issue(s) with its workers to order and to press home the importance of prompt resolution of the contentious issue(s). Warning strike is resorted to after tarrying for a reasonable period of time and the workers could still not perceive management is making efforts to accede to their prayers or feel the bone of contention is not given the deserved attention by the management or owners of the company.

Often when the workers embark on such subtle measures as a signal that they are serious about their request, management often will be jolted to call for a meeting or issue a statement to reassure the workers that the management still has its mind on the matter or in extreme cases, affirm that management is diametrically opposed to the workers’ request(s). Often, ding dong affairs will then ensue.

In the matter with the Nigerian aviation workers, all parties- management of all the five agencies concerned, the supervisory ministry and the government arm in charge of wages and salaries- have all agreed covertly and overtly to the workers’ demands.

The workers’ legitimate demands are the approval for the negotiated Conditions of Service, CoS, which for the past seven years was agreed upon between the workers and the management of each government’s agencies, for execution.

The other issue demanding mere execution is the minimum wage consequential adjustment which is yet to be executed since 2019 when the N30,000.00k minimum wage was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, and the union members on Monday 9th May 2022

While government agencies such as the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, are not encumbered by these demands, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NiMeT, and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, are the organizations in the ire of the storm.
The unions’ leadership build-up to the announced two days strike by all intent and purposes was sacrosanct.

The NTH correspondent who mingled with the workers from Friday afternoon, about the time of the Jumat prayers, until Monday morning saw the zeal the workers and especially the unions’ leadership deployed into the impeding warning strike.

By Saturday afternoon, workers and especially the national and the branch leaders were still seen putting finishing touches on the proposed action. Most of the workers who left for their homes after the closing of work on Friday left with a high spirit against the Monday warning strike.

The aviation media was also abuzz with perspectives on why the warning strike was relevant or not. NTH pulled a call through to each of the Chief Executives of the affected agencies and to the Aviation Minister, to enquire of whatever mitigating measure if any, against the warning strike but all to no avail.

Recall that the notice for the warning strike was dated 6th May 2022, and was issued by the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAP, and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE.

On that Friday, the union members began gathering equipment for mobilizing workers- Public address systems, flute, horn, cymbals and vuvuzela among others. Some went home, others slept around the office. Some left on Saturday evening, after another round of preparations with their union leaders.

NTH learnt first-hand that some branch executives and their very close loyalists passed the night within the airport vicinity just to be prompt for the Monday morning action.

On Saturday it was reliably gathered that the leadership of the aviation ministry would be meeting the union leaders. The venue was initially not very clear whether Lagos or Abuja. As at the evening on Saturday, the meeting was in the realm of conjecture.

However, by afternoon on Sunday 8th May, the meeting was confirmed. It would hold in Lagos with the aviation ministry’s representatives. It was clear the workers were unperturbed by the news. They continued to gear up for the D. day, Monday 9th May.

Workers at the entrance of ARIK head office. 9th May 2022

At about 4 am on Monday, 9th of May, a terse statement cancelling the workers’ much vaunted two days proposed warning strike was jointly signed by Comrade Kabir Y. Gusau, President, and Comrade Abdul Razaq Saidu, Secretary-General, both of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAP, with Comrade Ilitrus Ahmadu, President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, and Comrade Galadima Abednego, President, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE.

The “Special Bulletin No 2” dated 8th May 2022, stated, “We the above-listed Aviation Unions wish to strongly disassociate ourselves from the planned two days warning strike slated to commence on Monday, May 9, 2022”.

The reason given was, “We are compelled to take this decision following various revelations on the intent of the planned strike action. The decision to call off the strike was arrived at following our meeting with Ministry’s representatives on the matter”.

By the time the bulletin reached the media, – Monday 9th of May- who were expected to re-broadcast/re-publish for wider circulation, all the unions’ members including those whose leadership signed the withdrawal, had already begun picketing effectively all the agencies concerned- NAMA, NCAA, NiMeT and NCAT.

That the unions joint warning strike of last Monday was very successful, was a self-evident truth. NiMeT had never been involved in workers’ agitations but on Monday, no weather report was issued especially for those who craved the early morning flight. Also, Air Traffic Controllers couldn’t dispense directives for a start-up!!! Yet the leaders of those unions had directed otherwise. The inconsistency was one too many for comfort.


SOME UNION MEMBERS FUNCTION LIKE A SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD.
While the union leaders’ foot soldiers had in unison embarked on the jointly agreed task at the wee hours of Monday 9th May and were succeeding, news filtered to them that their leaders had directed a stay of action. These are the workers who in the final analysis will bear the brunt of whatever discrepancies meted out to them through their take-home wages.

Our reporter caught sight of some union members totally disenchanted. Some removed their branded shirt worn for the picketing job and changed to mufti.

Mostly affected were members of the youngest of the unions whose branch leaders are still under tutelage but could find neither their President nor the Secretary to lean on for the picketing.
Some members openly requested membership forms from other unions. When asked why they claimed they want to exercise their freedom of choice. If national assembly members, Ministers and Governors are crossing carpets to their party of choice, these concerned workers said, joining another union whose leadership they found stood by their members and not double tongue would be pleasing to them.


WARNING STRIKE INDUCED AUDIT: GAPS THAT MANIFEST

In spite of the hither and thither exhibited by the unions, yet another set of unions issued a statement to commend those who took part in making a grand success of the warning strike.
Should members whose leadership dissociated from the strike, but took an active part remain in the union although they were not told of progress achieved to have warranted last minute back out?

Workers pressing for Condition of Service, CoS, through warning strike Monday 9th May 2022

Or they should have done like representatives of the government of an English speaking country who preferred to sign and collect a loan from China. Although the agreement contract was written in Chinese. The government representatives reasoned that after disbursement of the loan they would shop for interpreters for the already signed contract agreement and they would have begun making good use of the facility.hrough

However, another statement of gratitude to the workers was released at the end of the picketing on Monday.

The statement, another Special Bulletin to all staff of NAMA, NCAA, NiMeT and NCAT stated that “our unions, NUATE and AUPCTRE, have reviewed day one of the actions by the complete withdrawal of services by NAMA, NiMeT, NCAA and NCAT.

It advised thus, “with due consideration to passionate appeals from well-meaning Nigerians and organizations, and having regard for inconveniences to the air travelling public, our unions have decided to step down the second day of the warning strike”.

Imagine, the grand success of that picketing in which all the unions members participated will now officially go to NUATE and AUPCTRE. That is what division does.

THE PATH OF HONOUR
Three unions jointly issued a statement announcing when the warning strike would hold and the reasons for it. They were ANAP, NUATE and AUPCTRE. Just at the commencement of picketing, ANAP backed out and aligned with ATSSSAN, and NAAPE.

The emergence of NAAPE, ATSSSAN and ANAP as a team that ordered their members to back out, cast a pall of doubt on the sincerity of the leadership. It instantly awakened the rumour mill to fertile imaginations. And smack of confusion among unions leadership and followers. Effective Intra and inter unions communication among union leaders would have averted such innuendos and conjectures. The rumour mill would have gotten nothing to feed on.

The union that called his men out and they were working all through Sunday night since Friday evening, should have tarried and first ensure his branch leaders were on the same page with the national secretariat before putting pen to paper.

Appending a union leader’s signature on a public statement is not only for the media and the general public, but essentially is for the members to know why and how their leaders are shifting ground. But where members suddenly found that their entire national leaders have shifted and no other person in the hierarchy can explain the rationale, poses a threat to the virility, growth and unity of such a union.

To be a General, the soldier must command troops and battalions. If the majority of the troops opt for, absence without leave, AWOL, the status of the General ceases automatically. Caution and practical wisdom are needed

What will edify aviation unions is the unity of purpose. None of the unions has other interests apart from the worker’s total well-being. This should make the bonding easier, faster, and long-lasting. No stone should be left unturned to achieve such a synergy witnessed for a few years among the unions. It will all of the time be beneficial to the unions and the workers

This is the path of honour.

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