TO avoid an impending industrial action, Chairman House Representatives Committee on Aviation, Honourable Nnolim Nnaji has again appealed to the Federal Government to immediately release the intervention fund it pledged for the aviation agencies to ensure a smooth gradual restoration of air transport services as announced by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
Honourable Nnaji said the appeal has become necessary in view of the fact that all the agencies are already finding it difficult to pay salaries due to the impact of the three months lockdown of the sector leading to threats of industrial actions by those who are instrumental in the reopening.
According to him, all the agencies, ranging from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) , the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA) to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) and the rests rely on aeronautical charges as their major source of internally generated revenue, (IGR) which had been eroded by the closure of airports.
The paucity of fund which has made the agencies unable to fulfill their obligations to the workers especially in the payment of salaries he noted has created tension in the sector and the workers are threatening to embark on strike by next week just a couple of days to the date of the reopening of five airports for partial resumption of local flight operations.
“As we speak, four industrial unions in the sector, the National Union of Air Transport Employees, (NUATE), the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, (ANAP) and the Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations of Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, (AUPCCSTRSE) have issued a notice of warning strike over the issue of salary and we must resolve this otherwise the planned opening of the airports will not materialize.” He stated.
“Am aware that Federal Government has agreed that there is need to offer palliatives to the agencies but am talking of the timing. This money must be released now to enable them prepare adequately for the resumption of local flight operations which is just days away.
“The airports to be used must be disinfected, some of the front line workers especially security personnel manning the exits and the screening machines will need personal protective equipment, (PPE), you have to engage the health workers who will work with the airport security officials at exits to screen passengers and these processes require money.
“I need not emphasize further that aviation industry is the worst hit in this period of global lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s why every country is releasing a sizeable chunks of funds to revitalize the aviation industry. Various countries are doing so because they understand the pivotal role the sector plays in the stimulation of the economy.
“Am happy that Federal Government has realised the position of some of us in that regard and pledged to intervene and l also want to use this medium to appeal to the unions to shelve their planned strike while we keep pressing for the release of funds to the sector by the government. Am aware the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has been on this matter and progress is being made.