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Disruption in aviation as workers strike

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By Usman Oladimeji

The strike action may cause airport delays and cancellations.

Unions in the aviation industry in Nigeria have called for a two day industrial-wide warning strike from April 17-18, which might cause disruption in the country’s aviation sector. If their demands aren’t met, the unions have threatened to continue their strike action indefinitely. The unions, however, urge their members to follow the strike directive without making any alterations in order to compel the federal government to take action. As the union continues the strike, widespread disruptions at both local and international airports is anticipated.

The strike action may also cause airline delays, cancellations, and airport access disruptions. According to the reports, the unions’ demands have been mostly unmet by the government, which was what propelled the strike action. Workers have reportedly been petitioning several aviation bodies to evaluate their Condition of Service (CoS) in the past seven years, but to no avail. Back on February 7, the employees gave the Minister of Aviation a 14-day ultimatum to respond to their concerns, but so yet, no action has been taken.

Federal government has given the employees too much “latitude.”

Workers at the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (MIA) are also disgruntled that increases to the national minimum wage have not been implemented. This has resulted in a potential two-day strike, similar to those in the UK, France, and the rest of the world. The group of unions that called for the strike include the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreation Services Employees.

The unions declared a similar strike last year, but a settlement with the federal government put a halt to the action. John Ojikutu, an expert in the field of aviation, addressed the press about the matter claiming that the federal government has given the employees too much “latitude.” How many of them have the necessary training? He asked, as he criticized the unions interference in the industry. Ojikutu, who faulted the NCAA for the repeated occurrence of such actions, said there should be a limit and regulations governing the workers.

Introduction of this strike action may cause significant delays.

On the other hand, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) LOS, Nigeria’s main airport that handles the vast majority of the West African nation’s international traffic, has seen disruptions in its operations. Since March, the airport’s primary runway has been closed for repair, and its closure won’t be lifted for another four weeks. The introduction of this strike action may cause significant delays and losses for airline operators, exacerbating an already difficult position. In order to create room for the new international terminal, the LOS administration has decided to demolish nearby office buildings and private aircraft hangars.

Minister of Transportation Hadi Sirika has also revealed that the airport is not yet completely functional and demolition will commence within the next two weeks. Unions, however, are fighting against the planned demolition of several structures to make room for expansion. The demolition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) complexes have sparked protests among the agency’s employees. Frances Akinjole, the Secretary General of ATSSSAN, voiced opposition to the plan, arguing that there was no justification for the existing administration to destroy the FAAN facilities.

Government was displeased with the workers’ industrial action.

Upon initiation of the strike yesterday, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Aviation, issued an earnest plea to the aviation unions to cease their current strike, which has severely disrupted air travel throughout the nation. Oluseyi Odutayo, a spokesman for the ministry of Aviation, said that the government was displeased with the workers industrial action despite efforts to meet the workers request. Odutayo criticized the strike, saying it was pointless and adding to Nigerians’ hardship and economic losses.

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