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Arik Air, Unions set for row over ‘unilateral’ sack of four unionists

NATIONAL Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), has called for the immediate reinstatement of four sacked union staff in Arik Air who were said to involve in union activities within the industry or the airline risks industrial crisis like they have never seen before.

Arik Air after years of operation became unionized in mid September 2016 when hundreds of the airline staff the three leading unions, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, (NAAPE), Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (ATSSSAN) and National Union of Air Transport Employees, (NUATE).

According to information reaching Nigerianflightdeck.com, Chairman of the airline Sir Arumemi-Ikhide Arumemi sacked four airline staff  including the branch Chairman, John Richard and three others from NAAPE.

In the airline’s letter of termination issued to the unionists, dated September 30, 2016, said the airline company no longer needed the services of the union leaders.

NUATE while reacting in a petition with the reference number NUATE.GS/MD.ARIK/ENP/007-2016, dated October 4, 2016, protested the unjust sacking of its chairman in the airline, just three weeks after joining the union.

The petition was signed by NUATE General Secretary, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, and copied the Minister of State for Aviation, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Commissioner of Police, Airport Command and Director, State Security Services, Airport Command.

The union accused Arik management of witch-hunting its members and not following due disciplinary process in sacking its chairman in the airline, warning that if he was not re-instated, the airline would face appropriate action

The petition read in part: “We are confronted with the illegal sack of our chairman, without your company following due diligence, particularly when the employee was safeguarding the safety and security of your aircraft and its passengers. Take note therefore that failure on the part of your management to reinstate the union chairman will mean that labour and your management will be working at cross-purposes, which may be detrimental to your operations.”

Arik, in a letter dated October 11, 2016, and signed for management by the Senior Manager, Human Resources, Mr. Matthew Okonkwo, insisted that there were no unions in the airline and that the service of Mr. Richard was no longer required.

The airline accused the unions of attempting to hijack its business under the guise of unionism, stressing that the unions were contributing to the deteriorating business climate in the Nigerian aviation industry.

Arik’s letter read,“Following your correspondence in relation to one of our ex-staff, John Richard, this serves to clarify that his disengagement is in line with the terms of his engagement, where either party can terminate the contract at any time with appropriate notice or payment in lieu of notice.

“This obligation has been fulfilled by the letter issued to him dated 30th September, 2016, with the required payment, in lieu of notice.”

The agreement reached between Arik and the unions on July 22, 2014, indicated that the airline agreed to unionize 24 months after. The agreement was signed for management by Capt. Ado Sanusi, Executive Vice President and Deputy Director; Comrade Ocheme Aba, General Secretary, NAAPE, Comrade Abdulkareem Motajo, General Secretary, NUATE and Comrade Captain Tarnongu for ATSSSAN.

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