Sunday , 25 September 2022

On the suspended strike and perceived antagonism against domestic airlines

IN the aftermath of Tuesday’s suspended strike, domestic airlines in the country are counting their losses and are asking where the fair treatment is for businesses that employ tens of thousands of Nigerians who are not on the payroll of federal or state governments.

The strike proposed by Organised Labour was set to hold November 6, 2018 if government failed to accede to its N30, 000 minimum wage demand, brought about panic in an industry that has been bashed of recent with several industrial actions.

In the run up to the D-Day unions issued statements on how they would cripple the industry, airlines, service providers,regulators et al, advising passengers to make alternate arrangements, the strike was supposed to be total.

However, on the eve of the strike a different news broke: President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu, reneged that the strike would not affect foreign airlines.

Some of his reasons, were that the industry unions were not unmindful of existing Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) arrangements Nigeria had with foreign countries whose airlines operate into the country, stressing that the issue at hand was a domestic one, which should not be allowed to affect international airline operators.

He recalled that during the fuel pump price hike of January 2012, the unions allowed international airline operators to reschedule their flights from 6am to 6pm, stressing that if the strike went on as planned, such treatment may recur.

Ahmadu in his argument also stated that the unions had allowed international carriers to operate into the country in the past because some Nigerians caught in the web had travelled into the country for holidays and needed to return to their respective countries to resume work, adding that some were equally travelling on scheduled medical. sees this position as double standards and further demeaning the country’s domestic airlines and subjecting them to and unnecessary hardships.

First of all, are the industry unions saying that when our airlines fly abroad and they are caught up in another country’s industrial action, those countries regard them and provide services? asks this because it recalled that one of Nigeria’s airline was caught up in a similar challenge in Senegal 2017, when Air Traffic Controllers in that country went on strike, this negatively impacted on that airline and the Senegalese never regarded BASA, so why are the unions putting up this argument?

Then there is the matter of people on holiday traveling back into the country to catch up on their jobs and those traveling for scheduled medical appointments , we find this argument equally hysterical.

First, are the unions telling the nation that there are no traveller within Lagos- Kano or Abuja-Kaduna, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri or Obudu-Lagos that are on holiday and wish to return to their respective states to resume work. Besides, if the nation is on a shutdown strike, what ‘work’ do they intend to return to?

Are the unions also saying there aren’t passengers who need emergency evacuation or need to keep a medical appointment at ENT in Enugu? Or the VVF Clinic somewhere in Kano or the diabetic clinic here in Lagos? Are the unions saying those lives do not matter?

Merely reducing a strike to foreign airlines vs domestic airlines beats the purpose and make us wonder, who employs these unions? The foreign airlines? Who employs our pilots, air traffic controllers, marshal lets, ticketers, safety inspectors, Aerodrome inspectors, airport cleaners? Foreign airlines?

Come to ask, most foreign airlines have spent decades in Nigeria and how many pilots and even crew members from these parts have they employed despite what they tend to cart away from here?

Most domestic airlines have continuously trained and employ professionals and non- professionals and for the unions not to see this and instead plan to give waivers on their strikes to foreign airlines, we believe is myopic.

We also believe, if the strike had held, it should have grounded everyone, local and foreign airlines so they can truly understand what it means by crippling and alienating an entire country.

Already airlines fearing the worst, went as far as rescheduling and rerouting flights, some at no cost others even went as far as refunding monies to intending passengers who have not seen it fit to go through the hardship.

Now, who bears these losses? On same 6th, our correspondent travelled to Abuja to meet up an appointment and to our surprise, he reported that the traffic on his aircraft was less than 15 passengers out of a 110 seater aircraft a route which is normally full on early flights.

He asked and was told, people ordered for refunds, while some cancelled initially booked flights all in fear of the strike. An official also told that even refunding of monies for flights, the airline bears the brunt especially when it is paid online to the banks; they will remove their charges and taxes will be removed but airlines still have to refund the full ticket fees.

No airline likes to refund, because of what it takes and how much is lost in the process. As it is, a rescheduled flight, from the commercial point of view does no airline good because for every Passenger Name Record (PNR) booked, the service provider is paid.

Once the PNR email or text message is sent to you the money is deducted. So if the passenger is rescheduling late, the airline losses that seat if it cannot sell within that period.

For refunds, the airline loses bank charges, cash handling PNR charges and a host of other charges while the customer still collects their refund in full.

The impacts are far reaching and costing the airlines millions, little wonder airlines are usually of the opinion that labor unions intentionally or unwittingly pitches itself against them without considering the bigger picture.

Our stand is that we commend the Labour unions courage to fight what it perceives is just and will better their lot, however, what must be done must not be limited to bringing more pain to domestic airlines who are bucking under extreme pressure to compete with their international counterparts who are given undue advantage through such declarations and acts.

This is an opinion of

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