THE meeting between management of embattled airline, Aero Contractors and aviation unions scheduled for today by 10am, failed to hold as management locked out the workers and everyone else, instilling further fears on its workers on indefinite leave as they are yet to negotiate non-payment of salaries among others.
A source told our reporter that some of the unions had other engagements but the unions had resolved to bring in the Ministry of Labour to midwife the meeting so as to ensure workers of the airline are not short-changed.
Presently, Aero has over 1,400 workers who have been sent on indefinite leave as a result of the hard times that the airline is currently facing.
The meeting may not have held but headquarters of Aero Contractors was a beehive of activities as unions including the Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) occupied the premises as a result of the suspension of scheduled flights today
Our source who was also on ground for the #OccupyAero said the workers were singing solidarity songs while others were also singing Christian songs asking God to lead the workers in pursuing this case.
According to Comrade Olayinka Abioye, the Assistant General Secretary, NUATE, who was also on ground Aero’s management locked in workers that performed night duty and locked out other workers that had reported for duty.
He said that the airline has violated of workers’ rights, adding that the two parties started discussing following attempt by Aero to declare 457 workers redundant, an action he said the unions rejected.
Abioye added that the matter was taken to the Federal Ministry of Labour in Abuja, where Aero was directed to do the needful.
He said, “My attention was drawn a seeming lock out in Aero contractors this morning and on getting here I noticed that the management of the airline locked out the entire workers of the company and locked in those who did night duty ,who as you can see cannot go home. This is a violation of the right of workers of Aero Contractors. How did we get here? Aero was under a receivership… The unions and the management have been discussing arising from the management intention to declare 457 redundant. We have been negotiating and as much efforts as we have been putting into the negotiation, nothing good has come from the management.”
The NUATE scribe stated that the Labour Law states that even if the airline decides to wind up its operations, it must pay the workers their severance benefits.
“You can imagine a situation where somebody has worked for 15 years will be paid half a month for that numbers of years and with this half month pay here severance benefits cannot be paid until nine months. This was the proposal three at the unions and we told them this proposal is not sellable and that they should look inward and do something more robust. We have been talking .we have been to the Federal Ministry of Labour in Abuja where Aero Management was specifically asked to go back to its drawing board and do the needful .Even if you are liquidation Aero Contractors today, the workers who have worked there are entitled to their severance benefits. That is what the labour law and the international convention says.” Abioye said
On whether the airline is still open for negotiation, Abioye said, “Yes, we are. We have been negotiating before this one happened. Our negotiation has not breakdown. We are very much open for negotiation because we were negotiating before Aero sent the workers on indefinite leave.”
On the allegation that Aero is still selling tickets to intending passengers, the Assistant General Secretary, said, “I am aware that they don’t have interlined agreement with any other local airlines. There is no airline that can take their tickets. Don’t forget that Bi-Courtney drove Aero out of MMA2 because they cannot pay. Aero is hugely indebted to a lot of companies including third-party companies.”