Arik Air has resumed operations after its flight schedules were disrupted earlier yesterday by members of 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).
The scheduled flights resumed following a meeting called by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to address officials of the airline and the aviation unions.
Earlier, Arik Air’s domestic, regional and international flights were totally shut down and stranded passengers littered the premises with no staff at the counter to check them in.
This created wide panic and uncertainty at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) where Arik operates from as hundreds of its passengers could only watch helplessly as the aviation unions picketed the airline.
The airline however, resumed operating flights from both Lagos and Abuja late yesterday evening, while full scheduled operations would resume wednesday.
The airline also said it had put in place extra flights on various domestic destinations which would operate between today, and Saturday, and has also upgraded aircraft on certain routes to a bigger capacity to cope with the backlog of passengers whose flights were affected by the unions’ disruptive action tuesday.
Additional capacity has been allocated throughout this week from both Lagos and Abuja to destinations such as Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Uyo, Yola and others to also enable many of the Arik customers to get to their destinations for the yuletide season.
The operations of the airline was tuesday, shut down from 12 midnight till yesterday afternoon after the unions vowed to do so in a statement.
The picketing of the airline was over a number of reasons, including seven months salaries, failure to recall all sacked employees who had been victimised for their roles in the effort to bring about unionisation 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.
Some of the placards placed around Arik counters read: ‘ARIK owes staff seven months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalises trade unionism and union membership: Sacking union executives at will etc! No salary, No flight Arik Air,’ ‘Modern slavery/ apartheid in Arik Air,’ ‘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.’
At the headquarters of the airline, anti-riot policemen and many union members were seen at the huge entrance gates preventing people from going in and out.
According to a union source, they besieged the Arik headquarters as early as 6a.m. to make good their threat to close down the airline for an alleged nonpayment of workers alleged seven months salaries and allowances.
Yesterday the unions issued a joint statement in Lagos and signed by Mr. Olayinka Abioye for NUATE, Ms. Frances Akinjole for ATSSSAN and Mr. Aba Ocheme for NAAPE.
They said on ground handling services, security clearance for Arik Air ticket holders, marshalling, aviation fuel supply, air traffic control, safety inspection, would 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.”