‘ARIK owes staff 7 months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalizes trade unionism and union membership: Sacking union executives at will etc! ‘ ‘ No salary, No flight Arik Air!’ “Modern slavery/ apartheid in Arik Airlines. We say no to slavery!’ ‘Every worker has the right to protection against unjustified dismissal in accordance with union laws and national laws and practices.’These were some of the placards placed around Arik Air counters as true to their word, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) shut the airline’s operations from 12 midnight today.
The union had in a statement yesterday vowed to shut Arik’s operations over a number of reasons including 7 months owed salaries, a recall all sacked employees who had been victimized for their roles in the effort to bring about unionization in Arik Air as well as remittance of pension, tax, and statutory deductions to the appropriate authorities and management’s adherence with Nigerian Expatriate Quota law.
This has created wide panic and uncertainty at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) where Arik operates from as hundreds of Arik passengers could only watch helplessly as the aviation unions picketed the airline.
At the headquarters of the airline, mobile policemen and many union members were seen at the huge entrance gates preventing people from going in and out of the airline’s head office.
According to a union source, they besieged the Arik headquarters as early as 6am to make good their threat to close down the airline for alleged nonpayment of workers alleged seven months salaries and allowances.
As at the time of filing this report, Arik Air’s domestic, regional and International flights have been totally shut down and passengers are already taking to other airlines if they have the means or to the roads.
A passenger who called Nigerianflightdeck.com complained that he has spent not less than N70,000 on tickets to fly to the east and the flights were cancelled yesterday only to come out today to meet this disheartening situation. According to Obinna,” I have no choice, I will have to go by road because I do not have any money, this is a fraud of the massive scale.”
Many travellers who were oblivious of the strike had arrived the MMIA only to meet this situation and no staff at the counter to check them in.
Passengers of the airlines have been complaining and groaning alleging that no one from the airline came to tell them what was going on, as many of them planned to go home.
Yesterday the unions issued a joint statement issued in Lagos and signed by Mr. Olayinka Abioye for NUATE, Ms. Frances Akinjole for ATSSSAN and Mr. Aba Ocheme for NAAPE, the unions said ground handling services, security clearance for Arik Air ticket holders, marshaling, aviation fuel supply, air traffic control, safety inspection, will be completely withdrawn indefinitely .
The statement in part read: “The aviation workers will be supported by Nigerian workers from all other sectors throughout Nigeria to underscore the seriousness of the matter at hand. All Arik Air employees, aviation workers, and other stakeholders are hereby enjoined to ensure full compliance with this directive please.”